Friday, November 23, 2007

I'm Not There

Leon casino,

Todd Haynes' I'm Not There reminds one of a great Bob Dylan song. There are several styles of verse that contain startling imagery, and the chorus catches you right away and has you humming along long after the movie wraps. I'm Not There is a non-linear biopic of Bob Dylan that's so noble it takes multiple actors to play the lead. Dylan followers will gain a lot more from the film, due to its use of key songs during important moments, than the average movie going bear but its cinematic rewards are spread equally among viewers. 
I'm Not There stars four actors you've heard from and two more with whom you may only be marginally familiar. Cate Blanchette has been getting all the love from filmblogs but there are some equally insightful performances from all the cast, not least Christian Bale (the Greenwich Village Dylan) and Bruce Greenwood (first as a BBC reporter and then secondly in a guise where I didn't realize it was also him until the credit roll). Plus Haynes semi-regular Julianne Moore playing a character molded by Joan Baez. None of the characters are named Bob, but rather Jude, or Billy or Woody.
It's easy to get lost in the different elements of Haynes' film. It crosses lines between surrealism and non-reality. It evokes the power of songs like Idiot Wind or Stuck Inside of Mobile with the same ease it slips between Dylans' personas. The heavy make-up Live at Budokon Dylan exists in a Wild West of Basement Tape characters while the Factory Girl scene of the mid-60s transforms into a Sapphic showdown. There's even the idyllic 50s with thick furniture and complex wall patterns that evokes Haynes most serious effort Far From Heaven. To put things into perspective, Haynes' first film was banned because he violated copyright by having a Barbie doll play Karen Carpenter. There's a bit of that anarchy on display in I'm Not There.

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