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Several I’M NOT THERE Reviews For You!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. This one sort of blindsided me, and I’m struggling with my own review of it at the moment. For now, here are some reader reactions, and it sounds like it’s the sort of film that you really have to chew on after you see it, the sort you’re just itching to talk over with some friends...
Call me Erock. I caught a screening of Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan biopic last night. I wont get into details of the plot because at this point everyone knows the fact that six different actors portrait Dylan during different eras of his life, both real and imagined. Quite frankly the movie is a mess, but it is an enjoyable mess. Watching it is like watching the dream of someone who has listened to all of Dylan's songs, watched the various documentaries, and read the biographies all in one sitting. It's simultaneously beautiful, confusing, erratic, and insightful, much like the work of it's subject. The six stories are interwoven throughout one another, each shot in a different filmic style. Certainly the segment which will receive the most attention is Cate Blanchett's, who portrays the mid-60s era Dylan during a drug-fueled and exhausting tour through Europe. Everything that's been hyped about her performance is true. She does a remarkable job nailing Dylan's mannerisms, vocal patterns, and looks eerily like him. This is not to take credit away from any of the other performances because everyone one does a great job. Christian Bale is also dead-on with his take on Dylan, it's just that Blanchett's segment takes up the majority of the film. I wouldn't say that I completely recommend I'm Not There, but I did enjoy it. People looking for a Walk The Line-style biopic will be disappointed. It's an expressionistic portrait based more on legends than fact, but that's one of the things I found so interesting. It meanders a bit too long towards the end and suffers from Return of the King syndrome (having several endings). Hardcore Dylan-philes will enjoy picking through the myriad references, parallels, and symbols. I consider myself a slightly-more-than-casual Dylan fan and picked up on a good number of them, but a lot went over my head. It's certain to leave the general public in the dust.
I’ll say a little more about the film as a game to be decoded down below. First up, here’s another review:
Hey Harry, Got a chance to sneak in to a press screening of "I'm Not There" today in Music City, USA. As a casual Bob Dylan fan who's never seen "Don't Look Back" I didn't know what to expect. I had seen Todd Solondz' "Palindromes" (which delves into "same character - different actor" territory) but in this case the players were portraying BOB DYLAN. I must admit I had this movie played out in my head before even having a seat and boy WAS I WRONG! THE OBVIOUS: Cate Blanchett deserves every Oscar ever handed out for her performance. Sublime, subtle and heart-shattering-spot-on. Her scene with David Cross makes him look like a real actor. Christian Bale can sing. Richie Havens can still sing. THE NOT SO OBVIOUS: Bruce Greenwood as Pat Garrett is a revelation. You will not recognize him. The characters are not referred to as "Bob" except for Heath Ledger. This leads the film to become less of a gimmick (different actors playing Bob) and more of a giant step forward into perception, the changes of life and the many faces we all wear. The wash of Dylan tunes (both sung by the man and sung by the actor) are steep and breathtaking. As I watched, I fell in love, fell out of love and then sank into the film. It is as inventive as it is grounded in the everyday faults of humankind. Another surprise: The pieces of the amalgam that is the Bob Dylan character as portrayed by a Welshman, two Australians, a black child, a rumored hamster lover and an Englishman are perfectly relatable, but when you combine the parts (in your mind, the film offers no such luxuries) I watched borders collapse, walls crumble: a character emerged that, while never actually glimpsed, eclipsed the sum of its own parts. We are all these characters. We are all everyman. We are all Bob Dylan. If you use this call me HeywoodYouKnowMe
If you are worried that maybe you don’t know enough about Dylan to enjoy this, I wouldn’t worry. I think it’s a heck of a rich and interesting film even if you don’t know the specific details of this one particular artist. This is a demolition of the biopic, and everyone’s seen enough of those to recognize certain shapes and clichés. But if you do know something about Dylan, then obviously the film plays on a whole different level, and it sounds like the studio wants to level the playing field for viewers at least a little bit, according to this press release...
INSPIRED BY BOB DYLAN’S FAMOUS LINER NOTES, AUDIENCES WILL RECEIVE "I'M NOT THERE: THE OFFICIAL GUIDE TO THE MOVIE" AT PARTICIPATING MOVIE THEATERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY NEW YORK, NY (November 20, 2007) - The Weinstein Company is pleased to announce that participating movie theaters nationwide will distribute liner notes for the highly anticipated film “I’m Not There.” From acclaimed director Todd Haynes, “I’m Not There” is an unconventional journey into the life and times of Bob Dylan. Six actors portray Dylan as a series of shifting personae—from the public to the private to the fantastical—weaving together a rich and colorful portrait of this ever-elusive American icon. The film opens in select theaters across the country on Wednesday, November 21, 2007. The announcement was made today by Gary Faber, executive vice president of marketing for The Weinstein Company. Inspired by Dylan’s famous liner notes for his classic albums, this information will provide audiences with a special introduction to Dylan. The liner notes include carefully selected excerpts of articles that will enhance the audiences’ experience of the man and his music, replicating the experience of listening to one of Dylan's albums or seeing him in concert for the first time. Gary Faber stated, “Preview audiences have enjoyed ‘I’m Not There’ so much that they leave the film eager to learn more about Dylan’s life and art. The articles selected for the notes will help audiences unlock some of the secrets in the film and enable them to enjoy it in a unique and special way.”

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 21, 2007, 4:58 a.m. CST

    I am wippuh, teawuh, shlasha.. I. AM.

    by ironic_name

    SECOND!

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 5:37 a.m. CST

    Does David Cross get naked?

    by theBigE

    Because that's what made him so great in Run Ronnie Run! You know it!

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 7:59 a.m. CST

    Someone make a film about Arthur Lee

    by MontyPigeon

    Another genius but this one way overlooked. Dylan is the greatest lyricist to have lived though. Greatest lyricist to have walked this planet.

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 7:59 a.m. CST

    It's an awful, messy, borderline disaster of a film.

    by CatVutt

    Cate and her section is fantastic. Other than that, I can't remember the last time I kept glancing at my watch so often during a movie. The fake 'documentary'-type stuff stops being clever after the first bit, Richard Gere's scenes are mind-numbingly worthless, and the goddamn thing just drones on and on without saying a damn thing. My breaking point was the completely cliche scene about TWO FUCKING HOURS IN with one of our faux Dylans getting pissy with a paparazzi. AYFKM? AVOID unless you're getting the DVD to zip to the Cate Blanchette sections.

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 8:39 a.m. CST

    "We are all Bob Dylan"?

    by Regenhund

    What kind of crap is that? That is some of the most rediculous juvenile writing I've come across, even on this site. Wow. I am stunned. We are all puking on our keyboards.

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 9:08 a.m. CST

    Inspired by Dylan's liner notes?

    by stones_throw

    So how will that make things any more clear?

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 9:15 a.m. CST

    There's nothing remotely confusing about the film.

    by CatVutt

    In fact, it's painfully blatant in trying to be oh-so-clever. It actually works worse the more you know about Dylan, because it makes the sytlistic choices all the more questionable. The more introspective it tries to be, the more obviously heavy-handed it becomes. Again, Cate is the the only thing in it that saves it from complete garbage, and she's SO good, and her sections work SO well, it's like it's lifted from a completely different film altogether.

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 9:16 a.m. CST

    One of these days...

    by CatVutt

    I'll actually review my spelling before I hit 'Post', I swear.

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 10:43 a.m. CST

    I'm not Bob Dylan.

    by Christopher3

    I'm not Spartacus either.

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 11:48 a.m. CST

    2 girls 1 cup looks better

    by Chutch

    i fucking hate pretentious crap like this flick and all the d-bags who say it's great b/c it's artsy....go take a piss.

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 11:59 a.m. CST

    I didn't know Cate Blanchett was in this.

    by tonagan

    She hasn't been mentioned in any of the articles about this film over the past year, which is probably a good thing, because she might get overexposed and, sadly, overlooked.

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 3:50 p.m. CST

    Loved it. Best movie of the year.

    by Mostholy

    Just got back, and I thought it was the best movie of the year, just eking it out over No Country. (Also up there for 2007: Knocked Up, Hot Fuzz, Bourne III, Assassination of Jesse James, and surprisingly, In the Valley of Elah) I will admit to being a hardcore Dylanhead though, so I drank the Kool Aid pretty early on in the film. That being said, irchollywood, you're on crack. This is MUCH better than the woefully bad Southland Tales -- better acted, better directed, better edited, funnier, more moving, you name it -- AND it made more sense (although it probably helps to know the basic beats in Dylan's chronology, I guess.) And Regenhund, cut the reviewer a break. The "we are all Bob Dylan" bit isn't only featured heavily in the trailer, it's the first scene in the film, a "you are Bob" POV shot of hitting the stage in '66. So he's more on point than you think. Finally, to everyone saying Cate Blanchett is far and away the best thing about this movie...well, I disagree. She's good, no doubt. But Bale and Ledger both do great (and subtler, IMO) Dylan impressions, and I loved everything involving Ledger and (the beautiful) Charlotte Gainsbourg (as an amalgamation of Suze Rotolo and Sara Dylan). (And, FWIW, Ledger here -- so different from Brokeback and other flicks -- really gives me hope for the Joker. He's gonna be great. ) In sum, this was knocked out of the park. I haven't seen Control (or, um, Walk Hard) yet, but this was miles above any other recent music biopic I can think of -- and considerably better than the sad misfire that was Across the Universe.

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 7:34 p.m. CST

    "Knocked out of the park"?

    by CatVutt

    Seriously? The Richard Gere crap? The wink-wink 'documentary' nonsense? The singing in the church bit that JUST WOULDN'T END?!? Really? I'll give you that Bale and Ledger were fine, but the script is woefully hamhanded and let's face it...this thing needs a SERIOUS recut to even begin to be very effective. I said it before...Richard Gere wouldn't even BE in my cut. All that Western stuff is pointless and had a small group of us at the film festival groaning at each other. There's probably a decent 90 minute movie in there, tops.

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 8 p.m. CST

    Catvutt

    by Mostholy

    I respectfully disagree. The Richard Gere stuff was as important as any other part of the story -- it's the "Old, Weird America" Dylan of "Desolation Row," "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream," John Wesley Harding, The Basement Tapes, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, etc., as crucial and integral a Dylan persona as folk-Dylan (Bale), Sara-Dylan (Ledger), '66-Dylan (Cate), or any of the others. (And, while I know it reeks of smug inside baseball, I'll admit to liking all the in-jokes in the town of Riddle -- the whitefaced singer, dead Mrs. Henry, etc.)) As for the church scene, I'm not sure what you mean by it not ending. Too many notes, perhaps? Bale sang "Pressing On." When the song was over -- before, if I remember correctly -- the scene was over. (And besides, Christian Dylan, however weird for a lot of us, is also crucial to the story.)

  • Nov. 21, 2007, 8:58 p.m. CST

    Oooohkay.

    by CatVutt

    I mean, I'm Dylan-savvy enough that I understood all of that, I just found it completely horrendous to sit through. And I just didn't need to hear the whole damn song in the church. The point was WAY beyond made. Well, anyway. I am glad you enjoyed it. I really, really didn't.

  • Nov. 22, 2007, 1:03 a.m. CST

    Fair enough, CatVutt.

    by Mostholy

    We'll have to agree to disagree. After all, you shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you. FWIW, my admittedly gushing longer review of the movie is here: http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/005066.html

  • Nov. 23, 2007, 10:43 a.m. CST

    crappity crap crap crap

    by beb

    a riddle wrapped in an enigma dipped in a bunch of bullshit. Ironically, the more you know about dylan, the more confusing this film is because it misrepresents so much of his life. Yes, I understand it is all about the enigma of Dylan but you could have a monkey eating poop for 2 hours and be just as enigmatic...and it would probably be more entertaining. Yet another critical darling that sucks. Same with Juno. Can't wait to see all the praise for that idiotic flick.