01 December 2007

Why Did I, Someone Who Dislikes Bob Dylan's Music, Hates His Voice, Despises Hippies and 60s Boomer Nostalgia-ism, Choose to See "Im Not There"?

Reason: cause I love Todd Haynes as a director.

Do you want a review? You don't have to want one to get one, that's the wonder of the internets.

Here goes my review, on the Millidargis scale of review uselessness and pretentiousness, I'd probably rate my own review that follows a 1500 or so, it's pretty useless as far as reviews go, but this kind of movie can only be discussed in obtuse and tangential ways. I'd rate AO Scott's review of the film a mere 650 millidargis, he actually writes a pretty straightforward piece on the picture (I so wanted to rip apart another pretentious Dargis review regarding this difficult but rewarding picture, but alas, she didn't pen one).

It's a worthwhile picture, it's a difficult picture, and it's a beautiful picture. One measure of the quality of a film is how many people walk out on it. That may seem like an odd measure of a film's worth, but I find the truly unusual, daring, and challenging films often cause walk outs. This film managed to cause 3 of the 16 people who chose to spend a late morning/early afternoon on a blustery but sunny Saturday on the glorious Westside of Los Angeles to walk out well before the final credits. In some ways they didn't miss much, in other ways they just didn't get it, and it's their loss.

Using 6 different actors (from a young black boy, to an amazing Cate Blanchett) to represent different aspects of Dylan's persona, his relationship to his music, and his relationship to his fame was a stroke of genius. Either that or it's a showy, 'auteur' trick that is designed to frustrate the 'squares' and excite the psuedo-intellectuals. I fall on the side of calling it genius, but I sympathize with those that read the film as being arty for art's sake to little effect.

I hate biopics, normally, but thankfully this was the most abnormal biopic ever made. This film is the template from which all future artists bios should be created. People familiar with Dylan's life will recognize moments (which being a non-fan, I only know tangentially), others may be perplexed, but the film works because of its disjointedness rather than despite of it. Rather than the usual narrative driven exploration of an artist's life (like Ray, or Walk the Line), this film digs behind the masks, behind the music (sorry VH1), and behind the culture from which the artist sprang.

Todd Haynes is a masterful director who has made some of the most interesting pictures out there of the past decade or so. This film plays like a 2hr15min music video that doesn't have a lot of music, or a series of six separate and very different shorts interleaved together despite lacking any strong throughline between one piece to the next.

The performances are strong, especially Cate Blanchett, who has received attention mainly for the gender-bender-iness of her performance, but the strength of her performance is in the acting, not in the fact that she's playing somebody who happens to have a penis. Oddly, her performance is the most imitative of Dylan, yet it's an imitation with an edge, she doesn't occupy his cadences and mannerisms circa 1965 for the usual reasons (in biopics, the actor's portrayal usually seems to be built from the surface inward, believing that if you capture the surface similarities between an actor and their subject, the inner truth will follow), instead she seems to be working from the inside out. By being like him from an emotional standpoint she represents his surfaces also. It's hard to explain, but it's there, you can see it on the screen if you choose to look for it.

This film is worthing catching on a good screen, it's filmed gorgeously, and unfolds slowly, it would be tempting while watching at home on DVD to pause, or backtrack, or break it up in to more digestable bits, but I think you'd get the most out of this pic by watching it the way Haynes put it together.

It's a shame nobody seems to want to see this picture, difficult and box office (even the lower standards of 'indie box office hit' standards) don't mix.

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