Bob Dylan. Fan or not you’ll have your own idea of the man. And of the myth. Being one of those elusive characters who seems to have already ghosted into legend and folktale long before his time is up; he was always ripe for a blockbuster biopic treatment. So up steps writer/director Todd Haynes, half a decade after his critically acclaimed ‘Far From Heaven’, before the likes of McG can throttle the potential golden goose. Producer Christine Vachon (who was also at the London Film Festival to promote ‘Savage Grace’) stated that the words “Todd Haynes” and “Bob Dylan” together in the same sentence were enough to hook the considerable acting talent (… though attracting the capital to fund the epic proved predictably thornier). But contrary to those obsessed with Mr. Oscar et all, onscreen performances are not what the film is really about. Yes Cate Blanchett is a creepingly faultless male and yes Heath Ledger has an overriding sexual presence (this opinion coming from a straight guy!), but no one is encouraged to degenerate into their best Dylan impersonation, and screen time for each of the six guises is limited due to the very nature of the film. Each routine are usually siphoned off or swiftly swept away so as to not distract from the whole. This is surely testament to both director and actor – for too many a biopic comes preloaded and spun with such testimony regarding the onscreen performance that it can distract from the original purpose of the exercise. Put simply, no one here has jumped into bed with a biopic in order to collect accolades the following Spring. But if pressed, special mention would have to go to Marcus Carl Franklin, a young man who has command and authority beyond his tender years. While Christian Bale, Richard Gere and, borderline narrator, Ben Whishaw, complete our rostrum of on screen versions of ‘Dylan’. And as for these personalities of the gentleman – they try to encompass the whole. The life and the work. The myth and the man. It’s unique and works better than you might think. The only other time I’ve seen a similar narrative technique employed was in Todd Solondz’s 2004 effort ‘Palindromes’. But here the action is nowhere near as segregated. It’s not Cate Blanchett for twenty minutes and then Richard Gere for the next. The fables and interpretations bleed into each other and structurally the film is difficult to fully grasp. The cinematography by Haynes’ previous collaborator Edward Lachman is impressive to the point of distraction, and rarely has a film camera been used to create such a spectrum of aesthetic stylings in one single feature film. While the editing is equally bravado. Images are effortlessly handpicked and layered from a seemingly endless and diverse supply, from Aronofsky-lite pseudo montages to single shots of a more considerable duration. These technical elements collide together to create what amounts to arguably the most ambitious film of recent years. However, the film will divide audiences. It’s a long two hours; not due to a measured pace – quite the opposite. There are so many ideas, characters, periods and poems seeping through every crevice of the projection that it could be too much for some to digest. The occasional psycodelic sequence only exaggerates this feeling of disorientation. Old school Dylan fans hungry for a traditionalist retelling of his career and personal life highlights might well be left completely bamboozled by Haynes’ tribute. Alas, you can’t please everyone. It will be interesting to see the word-of-mouth spread on this one come opening weekend. Personally I believe it’ll be too complex for the mainstream taste, in spite of a probable critical adoration. Because in a year when P.T. Anderson’s latest is being controversially placed side by side with Kane, Todd Haynes’ biopic might well draw favourable comparisons with Fellini’s seminal ‘8 1/2’. Personas come and go, overlap, and interact in what amounts to a nothing more nor less than a two hour vibe - an infinite patchwork quilt, with no obligatory need for a start nor an end. But when it does end (with ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ piping out as you exit the theatre) you’ll probably feel closer to the mere myth of Dylan than you did at the start. And for that and that alone Haynes will feel his experimental piece works. But whether this is the real Dylan or not would have to be answered by those who know the man considerably better than me. Cheers, but that’s your lot, ‘Alex’
Nov. 5, 2007, 12:42 a.m. CST
Nov. 5, 2007, 7:09 a.m. CST
I can't fucking wait to see this.
Nov. 5, 2007, 7:27 a.m. CST
Nov. 5, 2007, 8:25 a.m. CST
This year looks like it should be the best yet. But really, where else besides on this site is TWBB being sidled with Citizen Kane?
Nov. 5, 2007, 10:44 a.m. CST
Nov. 5, 2007, 12:33 p.m. CST
Nov. 5, 2007, 2:34 p.m. CST
I can't wait. Sounds like this flick is gonna be the exact opposite of previous music themed biopics "Ray" and "Walk the Line", both of which played like big budget Lifetime movies (only a lot less fun), what with all of the drugs and death and whatnot.
Nov. 5, 2007, 11:55 p.m. CST
at Telluride By The Sea. Very challenging and rewarding film. My favorite flick of that festival (also saw Into The Wild, Persepolis & Margot At The Wedding). I agree it will divide audiences. Many people are going to think it's pretentious bullshit and many will think it's brilliant. It's a ballsy film. Haynes took some serious chances with this flick. It really could have blown up in his face. But in my opinion he pulled it all together. The film stayed with me for many days afterward. Can't wait to see it again.
Nov. 5, 2007, 11:59 p.m. CST
This film is so far away from Ray and Walk The Line it's not even funny. There's an awesome article in the NY times about this flick that touches on that subject, and many many others. Definitely worth a read: http://tinyurl.com/ypuvb7