I'm Not There (15)

Film

Romance

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Cate Blanchett in <i>I'm Not There</i>

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Mon Oct 8 2007

There are plenty of reasons why you might dislike ‘I’m Not There’, Todd Haynes’ crazy jigsaw of a sort-of biography of Bob Dylan that breaks all the rules without writing any new ones. If you’re a Dylan nut, you might object to the loose telling of the facts – ‘What? You’re telling me that Suze Rotolo and Sara Lownds were the same person and that Dylan fathered two daughters with her?’ That kind of thing. Alternatively, if you know next to zilch about Dylan, you might find yourself all at sea amid Haynes’ torrent of wink-wink references and playful, fold-in, fold-out approach to events in the artist’s life. And, finally, if you’re one of those who can’t stand Dylan’s songs or hear anything in them beyond an excoriating whine, well, sorry, but you may find yourself reaching to employ your popcorn as earplugs: the film is packed with his music, performed by the man himself and a clever line-up of cover artists, from Sonic Youth to Cat Power to Calexico.

The recipe is famous. Six actors. Seven Dylans – none of them called ‘Dylan’. Colour. Black-and-white. Backwards and forwards. Forwards and backwards. Selective memory. Abstract concepts of character. The deconstruction of images and speeches. Marcus Carl Franklin, a 13-year-old African-American actor, plays the spirit of a teenage Dylan meshed with his hero Woody Guthrie’s vision of the highways and byways of the depressed 1930s nation. Heath Ledger is a late ’60s film star who is wrestling with a failing marriage to a celebrated painter (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg). Christian Bale is two Dylans: first Jack, a protest singer in early ’60s Greenwich Village, then in the late ’70s John, an evangelical preacher in the dreary suburbs. Richard Gere is a reclusive Bob, framed in the territory of Peckinpah’s ‘Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid’ and playing Billy as a disguised, wandering survivor of Garrett’s blood-lust. Then there’s Cate Blanchett, all cheekbones and mercurial, as Pennebaker’s black-suited Dylan and who exists in a world where verité meets Richard Lester meets Fellini. And, lastly, there’s Ben Whishaw who evokes Dylan’s love of Rimbaud and hatred of questioning with his back to the wall in an interrogation set-up.

Whatever your prejudices, if you’re sick of films that treat the lives of artists – musicians, especially – in the same, predictable fashion, then you should thank the high heavens for ‘I’m Not There’. Too often, we watch and groan as artistic inspiration is presented as a corny eureka moment (I still haven’t forgotten the sight of paint dripping to the floor of Jackson’s lavatory in ‘Pollock’) and domesticity is offered as a barrier to expression and later as a refuge from the fallout of that expression. Too often, too, a film claims to offer the last word on a life. Haynes is pretending to offer no such thing. His approach is honest: it’s the reflection of a life through the mirror of experimental film. It’s an acceptance that contradictions and interpretations and even mistakes are more acceptable than a biography preached as if from a pulpit. This is a typical blurring of form from a director who has already rethought the lives of Karen Carpenter and David Bowie and who looked afresh at the work of Douglas Sirk in ‘Far From Heaven’. It’s not a perfect experiment. At several points, it loses its strange rhythm, only to be rescued by the music itself, which is always well chosen and placed. At other times, Haynes is too much in debt to his sources, such as Pennebaker’s films, or he fixates for too long on a single thought, such as that which sees Gere wandering through a carnivalesque landscape in the late nineteenth century. But the film’s best ideas – such as Franklin’s ‘Woody’ strumming in the lounge of his proud, white adopted family or Ledger’s ‘Robbie’ wandering out of a Nicholas Ray-style film-within-a-film to fall in love with Charlotte Gainsbourg and later to reject her – are smart, playful and ensure that as a fractured, highly personal biography, ‘I’m Not There’ is full of intriguing arguments, movements and performances.

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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Dec 21, 2007

Duration:

136 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:7
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|16
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Jerry

I thought it an interesting film ,what with the modern updates by contemporary artists bringing a similar energy to the original in the tracks played.The music also explained pieces of the jig-saw: the multi-personae that he adopts-the psychic trickster,the outlaw cowboy, the mystic savant,the Cassandra of doom. Each actor gave themselves totally to their role-the many selves of Dylan:Jude,Billy,Woody,Robbie,Arthur etc.Gere looked like somebody who strayed from 'Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid',a rancher from the Basement Tapes out of John Wesley Harding Americana.He gave the film it's still centre.The young actor playing Woody captured well a character out of Dylan's backstory. Blanchett captured the hermaphroditic mercurial Dylan of 65-66 after he'd turned electric.London out of a Fellini movie.Whishaw was the evasive Dylan of the press conferences and played the Arthur Rimbaud period of Chimes of Freedom and Tamborine Man in the post protest phase. Protest phase was captured very well by Bale in late 60s and conversion to Christianity phase(2 in 1).Ledger captures the cool Dylan and the Dylan of Blood on the Tracks.The female cast are excellent especially Gainsborough who gives the film dignity and restraint, and Moore covers Joan Baez in reminiscence and of course the impressive Blanchett. the choice of music was not necessarily his best known or liked tracks but some surprisingly illuminating ones which help explain the background scenes.I liked particularly'I'm Not There' by Pearl Jam and 'Going to Acapulco' by Calico. There is a nod to different film-making styles eg. Ledger's Dylan would reflect French New Wave especially in it's treatment of women:to be worshipped but not creative in their own right.I felt this film was a brave attempt by Todd Haynes as a fan of Dylan's music and the chameleon-like changes the man-performer went through.

Jerry

I thought it an interesting film ,what with the modern updates by contemporary artists bringing a similar energy to the original in the tracks played.The music also explained pieces of the jig-saw: the multi-personae that he adopts-the psychic trickster,the outlaw cowboy, the mystic savant,the Cassandra of doom. Each actor gave themselves totally to their role-the many selves of Dylan:Jude,Billy,Woody,Robbie,Arthur etc.Gere looked like somebody who strayed from 'Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid',a rancher from the Basement Tapes out of John Wesley Harding Americana.He gave the film it's still centre.The young actor playing Woody captured well a character out of Dylan's backstory. Blanchett captured the hermaphroditic mercurial Dylan of 65-66 after he'd turned electric.London out of a Fellini movie.Whishaw was the evasive Dylan of the press conferences and played the Arthur Rimbaud period of Chimes of Freedom and Tamborine Man in the post protest phase. Protest phase was captured very well by Bale in late 60s and conversion to Christianity phase(2 in 1).Ledger captures the cool Dylan and the Dylan of Blood on the Tracks.The female cast are excellent especially Gainsborough who gives the film dignity and restraint, and Moore covers Joan Baez in reminiscence and of course the impressive Blanchett. the choice of music was not necessarily his best known or liked tracks but some surprisingly illuminating ones which help explain the background scenes.I liked particularly'I'm Not There' by Pearl Jam and 'Going to Acapulco' by Calico. There is a nod to different film-making styles eg. Ledger's Dylan would reflect French New Wave especially in it's treatment of women:to be worshipped but not creative in their own right.I felt this film was a brave attempt by Todd Haynes as a fan of Dylan's music and the chameleon-like changes the man-performer went through.

Les Molloy

With, or without, huge admiration for Dylan this is a great film. Like a trip. Combine Blanchett, Gere, Bale and Dylan, notwitshstanding the excellent supporting cast, and you get more than you would expect. Male - female stereotyping, discussed in one scene, is thrown out the window by Blanchett's superb characterisation of a mid career Dylan. This film left me wantimg more. More minutes. 137 was just not enough!

Les Molloy

With, or without, huge admiration for Dylan this is a great film. Like a trip. Combine Blanchett, Gere, Bale and Dylan, notwitshstanding the excellent supporting cast, and you get more than you would expect. Male - female stereotyping, discussed in one scene, is thrown out the window by Blanchett's superb characterisation of a mid career Dylan. This film left me wantimg more. More minutes. 137 was just not enough!

Paul

As a big Bob Dylan fan, I was really looking forward to this film. I was very disappointed. It was too long and far too pretentious. It was even worse for friends who were not familiar with some of the more obscure aspects of Dylan's life. There are large chunks of the film which simply make no sense if you don't know about the situation they're representing. I really enjoyed the 'version' of Dylan represented by the young black "Woody Guthrie" boy. That particular part was well thought out and well-acted and the music was certainly the best in the movie. I also thought the "Arthur Rimbaud" character made sense, though this was a very minimal part of the film. However, the rest of the movie was absolute tripe. Cate Blanchett played the part of 1965/6 Dylan fantastically, adopting the mannerisms expertly, but the dialogue she had to utter was atrocious as were the situations in which the character was put. The section of the film set in England, including the "Don't Look Back" part, was absolutely appalling. Aside from the man playing the Albert Grossman character and Bruce Greenwood's depiction of a cynical journalist, the acting of the smaller parts was abysmal. England was filled with terrible actors with, on the whole, terrible fake posh-English accents. Richard Gere's "Billy the Kid" aspect of the film lacked any impact at all and seemed quite pointless. Heath Ledger's section had slightly more to it, assumedly representing Bob Dylan's romantic life with Suze Rotolo and Sara Dylan as well as his family life, but was ultimately dull and inconsequential. As for Christian Bale's performance, it was horrible. The man sounded like some sort of comedy caricature of Bob Dylan - done badly. His acting was equally atrocious. If you're a big Bob Dylan fan like myself, you might get a little something out of it. Especially enjoyment of the Woody Guthrie character. You may also enjoy Cate Blanchett's depiction of Dylan with its accurate mannerisms. However, I don't think it's really worth 135 minutes of your time. If you're not a Bob Dylan fan, I really wouldn't bother. You're not going to gain anything from it and I doubt you'd enjoy it.

Jon

Never a Dylan fan I was entranced. I will never hear this music the same way. I really liked the use of Cate Blanchet giving the character a vulnerable edge to the feistiness. I thought Charlotte G really kept the film real with her understated charismatic performance.

Jon

Never a Dylan fan I was entranced. I will never hear this music the same way. I really liked the use of Cate Blanchet giving the character a vulnerable edge to the feistiness. I thought Charlotte G really kept the film real with her understated charismatic performance.

john toner

Dave Calhoun and I definitely saw the same film. When you make a biopic of a man who refused all labels, it would be folly to attempt to define him. Ultimately, the film is moving and affirmative. And while nothing is perfect, it is as deserving of six stars as anything else we might see this year.

john toner

Dave Calhoun and I definitely saw the same film. When you make a biopic of a man who refused all labels, it would be folly to attempt to define him. Ultimately, the film is moving and affirmative. And while nothing is perfect, it is as deserving of six stars as anything else we might see this year.

ellenroman

I don't know what the above commentor is talking about (I suspect maybe HE"s the stoned freshman...) but I thought this film was fantastic. Nobody's ever going to get Bob just right, and that's the whole point!

ellenroman

I don't know what the above commentor is talking about (I suspect maybe HE"s the stoned freshman...) but I thought this film was fantastic. Nobody's ever going to get Bob just right, and that's the whole point!

borrisbatanov

These stars, who we KNOW, as a certainty, breath a different air, have different blood in their veins. On the outside they’re just like you‘n me and at the VERY same time saints, angels, devils, mysterious ghosts and sprites. How does this happen? There, under the album covers, the endless chatter, the thousand words and photos, secreted somewhere, there MUST be a hard truth, plain and reliable, unadorned and true. After all, today, centuries after the fact, we KNOW Bach, Shakespeare. Why not Bob Dylan? Why not? Because media are a bunch of stoned freshmen, sweating sperm, addicted to fame and fortune. He swam, in his time, his place, an illusion, in this sea of sheet. Even tho he told us “Don’t Look Back,� “Bring It All Back Home,� now, rootless, confused and spoiled, we look back, and put everything up for sale, up on the screen, i things and cells in our sweaty palms. We WANT that easy ring-tone answer, that final electronic summation. We must defeat the past, chaos. And along comes Todd Haynes to do just that, provide a passing distraction, holdable and as cute as a cell phone or iPod, as artsy as an iPod TV ad. There goes Bob, one minute a black kid spouting ridiculous self-serious Steinbeck platitudes, another a world-weary wasted Cate Blanchett, wilted and defiant, always fashionably poised, photogenic. This is ‘America’s Next Top Model’ in retrospect, a done deal, Dylan as Suffering Saint, the Hunger Artist eating caviar, the outsider who’s In. Dylan, darling, free of the stink and shame of failure, poverty.

stephen o&#039;connor

Its great to see afilm dedicated to dylan. He really is one of the great legends of the musical bible im certainly excited to see what its like. Weve had ray, walk the line so y not dylan ... cant wait!!!!!!

stephen o&#039;connor

Its great to see afilm dedicated to dylan. He really is one of the great legends of the musical bible im certainly excited to see what its like. Weve had ray, walk the line so y not dylan ... cant wait!!!!!!