Todd Haynes “I’m Not There”

Finally saw Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There. I’m a fan of Haynes’, but the movie struck me as really smart and interesting, wonderfully apt in its treatment of Dylan’s identities, but somewhat maddening as a viewing experience. One problem, maybe, is that the postmodern identity-scrambling sometimes simply underlines the basic bio-pic problem: that is, since the actors portraying Dylan are continually changing (and many of them make little effort at verisimilitude), you’re constantly re-confronted with the artificiality and falsity of filmed biography. Of course that’s the point, but the effect is sometimes just clunky and silly. Sarah commented that certain scenes recalled A Mighty Wind, the Christopher Guest mockumentary about the 60s folk music scene: e.g. the Joan Baez character reminiscing.

The movie is always tossing out funny, clever, and memorable details: one I loved, for example, was Dylan clowning around with the Beatles, who appear as manic Teletubbies (played by a quartet of Frenchmen, it seems). It only lasts for about 5 seconds, but is hilarious and perfect. As everyone pointed out, Cate Blanchett is brilliant. Heath Ledger was melancholy to watch. David Cross is amusingly absurd as Ginsburg. I hated Richard Gere and ended up fast-forwarding through some of the late Billy the Kid scenes he’s in. I kind of wish the whole movie had been Blanchett — would’ve been more conventional but more effective, maybe.

Final verdict: not as good as the Dylan memoir. The movie didn’t do too well, did it? You pretty much need to know a lot about Dylan to appreciate it. E.g. why is there a tarantula crawling — that’s a reference to his book of poems; he was a big fan of the wrestler Gorgeous George; there’s a lot of that.

Just listened to a bit of Haynes’ commentary over the last 5 minutes or so — quite eloquent, I’m almost tempted to go back to hear more of it. He ends by saying “I’m just so glad I got to make a movie that ends with ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands'” and there is something to that — it’s great just to have an excuse to listen to these songs in a new context. (Once in sophomore year of high school I spent much of an evening listening to that song — which was an entire album side — over and over. I was a romantic little soul.)

I’m really glad I finally saw Dylan live this year. The university basketball stadium wasn’t exactly the ideal setting, but I loved him and the country-western-Mariachi band he has going these days.

The David Hadju book Positively Fourth Street is great btw and gives a funny, less-reverent than the norm depiction of Dylan (who comes across as a complete jerk, at least some of the time)


3 Responses

  1. There was a very recent Fresh Air with Suze Rotolo, Dylan’s grilfriend who appears on the cover of the Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan… It was entertaining, although I was a suprised that he didn’t come off as more of a jerk. One highlight was Terri Gross breathlessly asking “what was it like to be with Dylan then, when every women in the country desperately wanted him?”

  2. Bearded loon on the piano ? I thought I was looking closely, but I missed it. I DID get the calisthenics (sp ?) in black knee high socks however….but I did like Lykke Li (of whom of course I’d never heard)…

  3. I just meant the nutty hippie guy playing the organ (making a subtle ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ reference too). I think you put this comment in the wrong box, btw…

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