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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'm Not There

Ever since I saw Todd Haynes' new film I'm Not There over the weekend I've been trying to figure out how I really feel about it. It was a disjointed experience for me: a little bit slow in parts, a little bit brilliant, a little bit too precious, a little bit surprisingly funny, a little bit confusing, a little bit nostalgic, a little bit biting. I'm not sure that I ultimately "get" what Haynes was trying to say about Dylan. But then I'm also not sure that matters. Here are some simple bullet points from me about the film:

Cate Blanchett. - She was brilliant as always. I don't know how she does it. She has this way of acting with just a twinkle of her eye that is other worldly. It was also brilliant on Haynes' part in casting her. There was something about a woman playing Dylan that got to the meat of his character. She revealed the fire in his mind in a way that did not come through in the male performances. At the same time, even knowing it was her, a woman playing this part, I was not distracted by it. I watched the film and saw a man, Jude Quinn (this particular character's name).

The performances in general. - All the performances were good actually. I particularly liked Michelle Williams and Ben Whishaw in their smaller parts. Everyone seemed to capture their characters with perfect clarity without falling into caricature.

The use of Dylan's music in the film. - Sometimes there were entire scenes with no dialogue, just the Dylan songs playing which made it almost like watching extensive music videos. It reminded me of Haynes' Velvet Goldmine a lot. I enjoyed those scenes. Listening to the rambling storytelling songs of Dylan while watching a rambling filmed story of his "life" was interesting, it was apropos.

The Beatles scene - Funniest moment in the entire film. I don't want to give anything more about it away.

Sometimes the film made me sleepy. - There were times during this film where I could barely keep my eyes open. I understood Haynes' desire to let the movie unfold slowly and in that rambling way I've mentioned before, but I guess I needed more action!

Billy the Kid, really? - I guess I don't know enough about Dylan to have understood the Billy the Kid character played by Richard Gere. Maybe it's all part of Haynes' treatise on celebrity? I don't know. Those were some of the scenes that bored me the most.

What was Haynes getting at anyway? - Again, I wasn't really sure what to take away from the film. What was the filmmaker's intention? I felt that maybe he was speaking to the cult of celebrity. Dylan has transformed himself so many times in so many different ways while always remaining this cult figure to his fans. Or maybe it's simply about the music, showing how each of Dylan's personae infused the music each made.

All in all, the film seemed to be made out of love which is enough. I'll tell you that it inspired me to re-watch Pennebaker's Don't Look Back and download my Dylan CDs to my iPod.

I wonder what Dylan himself thinks of it?

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