Saturday, March 29, 2008

I'm Not There

DAN - I’m Not There is a tribute to Bob Dylan as directed by Todd Haynes. Although being in a biographical format, the film doesn’t feature a singular representation of Dylan. Instead, six different actors portray various elements of Dylan’s life, be it truth or legend. The result is an intertwining set of separate narratives that amount to the director’s impression of one of his favorite artists.

Even though I know very little about the real Bob Dylan, it is apparent that this film’s construction of his character is unique. Dylan is depicted as a child, an outlaw, a poet, a prophet, and more. Each side of his personality is filmed in a different style; some segments are black and white, while others are in color. These stories could have been presented individually, but are instead intercut with one another, creating a unified presentation on the character of Dylan.

The effect of this myriad of plot lines can sometimes be disorienting. It’s clear that director Haynes is expressing himself through artistic editing, but I wasn’t always able to catch the intended meaning. Haynes’ style of storytelling, though unconventional, is not off-putting. It simply requires a greater level of attention from its audience.

Haynes previously directed a film called Velvet Goldmine that was based on the life of David Bowie. That film was more difficult to follow than I’m Not There, despite having only one actor in the role of the main character.

This film’s cast delivers a cornucopia of terrific performances. Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, and the late Heath Ledger are standouts in an ensemble that lacks any notable flaws. I am impressed that black, white, male, and female actors are all able to convey something that resembles Bob Dylan.

The film’s soundtrack comprises Dylan’s music; some songs are original recordings, and others are covers. The music complements the film well, though at points there are some obvious problems with lip synching.

I’m Not There is an experimental film that is far from being mainstream. It’s an impressive outing for cast and crew alike. I imagine it would help to be a Dylan fan when watching this movie, but it merits a viewing by any interested audience.

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