Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I'm Not There

Todd Haynes, 2007 (8.8*)
Done in the rambling style of a 60's Fellini film (notably 8 1/2) by director Todd Haynes and given the name of an unreleased song from Dylan's "Basement Tapes", this is an inventive and non-formulaic fantasy, not a docudrama, but an inventive art film that improvises on the various mythic personae (7 here, played by 6 different actors) of Bob Dylan, some self-created, such as an 11 yr old black "Woody Guthrie" based on Dylan's own tale give to NY journalists, and character "Billy" from the Pat Garrett/Billy the Kidd songs.

Cate Blanchett deservedly won 9 int'l acting awards (but curiously not the Oscar® or BAFTA) for her dead-on portrayal of the 'electric era' Dylan often at odds with his folk-purist fans, capturing his personality without trying to impersonate him; as always, she is simply brilliant. Christian Bale is also effective as the early folk singer making his mark in Greenwich Village, and as the later 'newborn evangelist'. Heath Ledger plays an actor made famous by playing Dylan in a mid-60s biopic, while Charlotte Gainsbourg is subtle and stunning as his troubled artist wife. Along with Ledger's, perhaps the most incongruous story line is the western "Billy", played by Richard Gere, seeking solitude in a mythic 1800's town and location (Riddle County); this storyline is not about Dylan but his musical characters, and his own occasional retreat into reclusivity to escape the media and fan limelight.

Often shot in 60's style black and white, often jumping from one character/story to another, sometimes feeling improvised, these variations in style actually help the film stay lively and interesting, as well as constantly surprising the most jaded of film fans. Only those expecting a straight narrative will be disappointed, and this should interest both Dylan fans and those who simply respect his amazing achievements, of giving a voice to the most important era of the postwar generations: the emerging movements for both civil rights and ending the Vietnam war. In fact, Dylan gave voice to both 'beatnik' and 'hippie' generations, when non-conformity and exercise of freedom became the battle cries of youth disenfranchised with the military-industrial war machine controlling the world's governments.

This deservedly WON a Rolling Stone magazine poll for non-documentary music biopics (over Ray and The Doors); even had Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" not given the name to both the magazine and the rock group, it still would likely have won this poll as it's the most ambitious and inventive rock film since Richard Lester's A Hard Day's Night, which is itself parodied in one scene with Cate's "Jude" character cavorting in the grass with the Beatles on the set of that film. This is a film that almost immediately begs for a re-watch, and will certainly be on every list of must see rock movies.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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