I'm Not There
Credits: Directed by Todd Haynes and starring Bruce Greenwood, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kris Kristofferson, Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett, Michelle Williams, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, David Cross, Marcus Carl Franklin, Kim Gordon and Vito DeFilippo.
Details: (M), 135 mins, United States, English
Synopsis: Director Todd Haynes chose to cast six different actors to portray several incarnations of groundbreaking troubadour Bob Dylan. The result is a challenging, sprawling work that spans several decades and genres. Woody (Marcus Carl Franklin) is a young black child with a folk music obsession; Jack Rollins (Christian Bale) is an upstart folksinger whose protest songs have ignited an entire generation; Arthur (Ben Wishaw) is a Rimbaud-esque figure who has begun to embrace a new form of lyrical poetry; Robbie (Heath Ledger) is a well-known actor whose marriage to the lovely Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) crumbles under the weight of his lifestyle; Billy (Richard Gere) is a slippery frontiersman who echoes Dylan's infatuation with the Old West and American folklore; and, finally, there is the substance-abusing, confrontational Jude (Cate Blanchett), who represents Dylan in the turbulent mid-1960s.
Although a misguided leap into the old west all but derails the film, I’m Not There will keep the Dylan dissectors busy long into the night.
Director Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Poison, Far From Heaven, Safe) turns his lens on one of the greatest iconoclasts of the 20th century. In a sweeping, often bewildering epic, he seeks to present and interpret the music and many lives of Bob Dylan. Meet the protestor, the dreamer, the preacher, the entertainer, the addict. Each is, indeed, a unique character, and Dylan is in fact played by six different actors as Haynes seeks a little truth about the man, his era and his country.
In mixing timelines and periods, colour with black and white, men with children and women, I’m Not There becomes a challenging and provocative take on the biopic. Forget the usual tics of the genre – this has as much in common with Ray as Solaris does with Star Trek. Haynes invites us to view the subject through a shattered prism, but differences aside, nearly all of the Dylans are remote and churlish, ghostly inhabitants of the story despite occupying the middle frame. Connecting with Haynes beyond the intellectual is always testing, and the maverick director does little to make this any easier. As one of the Dylans points out, it’s like having yesterday, today and tomorrow all in one room.
While lacking a narrative spine, there is an urgency about the interconnected nature of these vignettes that forces engagement. Much of it is derived from the outstanding performances, with Cate Blanchett foremost among them. Hers is an utterly mesmerising turn that bewitches the camera. Although a misguided leap into the old west (with Richard Gere) all but derails the film (but where would Haynes be without such leaps?), I’m Not There will keep the Dylan dissectors busy long into the night. Doing away with a narrative spine, I’m Not There is more a series of vignettes than a unified film – a maverick, urgent and exciting experiment.
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