Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm Not There

This weekend I watched one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. It's called "I'm Not There". You may have heard of it - it's the movie that's "about" Bob Dylan and has six different actors playing various incarnations of him. I know, some of you are rolling your eyes already. I was too before I saw it. The movie received a lot of critical acclaim, but I was kind of skeptical. It just sounded like it had the possibility of being too precious, or too clever for its own good. And I'm a Dylan fan. After seeing it I thought the movie lived up to the hype.

Over the years Dylan has inhabited a number of different personae. And while that in itself is not unique in the biopic genre, this movie takes it to a higher level (as some would say Dylan himself has done in real life). The movie presents completely fictional personifications alongside the more realistic ones. Such as an 11 year old African American boy who idolizes Woody Guthrie and rides around the country in boxcars playing his guitar and singing. This character represents the early Dylan who professed a love of Woody Guthrie and liked to tell tall tales about his origins. Another aspect of Dylan is that he is a highly mysterious figure, and this movie does a great job of presenting that aspect too. The movie suggests that all of these shifting personalities were a way for Dylan to maintain his freedom, rather than being stuck inside people's preconceived notions of what he should be, which seems to be key to his creative process.

There are some very interesting themes presented in the film about the nature of identity and reality, and I even think that it says some interesting things about American culture. The movie is really well-made too. The acting is superb, and the way that the different personalities are presented in thematically appropriate film styles is very interesting. There's some amazing imagery, especially in the Billy the Kid segment towards the end of the film. The way that Dylan's music is woven throughout the film is great too. It's used both as straightforward musical accompaniment and dialogue spoken by various characters. This all sounds like a bit much I'm sure, which is why I think my expectations may have been lowered. But it all comes together in a really compelling way in my opinion.

Having said all that, I'm not sure that I would recommend it to everyone. If you need a strong narrative in your movies then you probably want to look elsewhere. This also isn't a movie that you can just kind of watch while you're folding laundry or making dinner - it requires you to pay attention. I do recommend it for people who enjoy bold and unusual films.

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Blogger Vesper de Vil said...

I'm definitely going to check it out!

9/22/2008 12:16 AM  
Blogger paintergirl said...

Hey it's on our netflix list. I think our next rock movie is about the New York Dolls.
I can't wait to see Cate Blanchett play him. And does Bale play him as well? I just heart Dylan to bits and can't wait.

9/23/2008 9:44 AM  
Blogger JC said...

Based on what I know of your movie tastes, I think both of you will like this movie. Maybe even as much as I did. I'm still thinking about it.

Cate is amazing. Yes, Christian Bale is one of the Dylans, and so is Heath Ledger.

9/24/2008 9:36 PM  
Blogger REENblack said...

I have heard of this...and thought about seeing it. Watching a movie without interruptions in my house is a rarity though. Maybe I'll wait until my winter break from school!!!

9/25/2008 3:35 PM  

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