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Thursday, January 07, 2010

This week at SFC: I'm Not There

Building 7
Fernandes Industrial Centre
Eastern Main Road
Port of Spain

Thursday January 7th 2010

Free for all!

film 8:15pm, doors open 7:30pm

I'm Not There (Todd Haynes/USA/2007/135')

Unapologetically audacious, I'm Not There is more post-modern puzzle than by-the-numbers biopic. A title card sets the scene: "Inspired by the music and many lives of Bob Dylan." Yet the film features no figure by that name. Instead, writer/director Todd Haynes presents six characters, each incarnating different stages in the artist's career. Perfume's Ben Whishaw, a black-clad poet, serves as a slippery sort of narrator. The action begins with the wanderings of an 11-year-old runaway named "Woody Guthrie" (Marcus Carl Franklin)--his raucous duet with Richie Havens on "Tombstone Blues" is a highlight--and ends with a silver-haired Billy the Kid (Richard Gere) watching the Old West die before his eyes. In the interim, there's the folk singer-turned-preacher (Christian Bale), the actor (Heath Ledger), and the rock star (Cate Blanchett, who has Don't Look Back Dylan down to a science). The chronology is purposefully non-linear, and editor Jay Rabinowitz cuts rapidly, Jean-Luc Godard-style, between cinéma vérité black-and-white and saturated color, Richard Lester-like slapstick and Fellini-inspired surrealism (Ed Lachman served as cinematographer).


Blogger Unknown said...

I'm not sure what to make of the film. This in a Dylan-insider piece drenched with little references that would delight followers. The concept is interesting and the actors go all out to make it happen.

As post-modern as its structure suggests, however, I thought the theme of eurocentrism/American exceptionalism remained very present, both in the political events and in editorial choices about Dylan's bio-path.

The film, for its many references to Dylan's connection with French culture/people, never approaches sophistication when it comes to the influence of old time/blues (what about a Banjo Lesson allusion) or calypso forms (via Exuma) on Dylan's work (yes, even with the black kid playing Guthrie's ghost). And was Dylan being all these people but not being 'himself'? The film wants to go reflexive there very briefly but doesn't follow through.

Strangely, I also found the film navel-gazing a few too many times and it definitely over-indulges Dylan's enigma. A scene with him picking out Jimi Hendrix' "If 6 were 9" as the world shifted and split around him would have been more powerful than the repeated foreshadowing of Lennon's murder (and saved about 5 minutes).

RIP Ledger, Bravo Blanchett. But there's something disturbing about watching famous people pretend to be other famous people.

Classic line- Bob Dylan looks to the figure of Christ on the cross and shoots "Why don't you do some of your old stuff".....yeah :).

By the time he 'converts' though, the tension between post-modern artistic pretensions and a lack of depth/reflection/research in the film's content finally causes the effort to collapse rather than resolve.

At that point, I just had to remind myself of the overall worth of the man, his music and the movements he highlighted. Good film: "Take it easy, but take it [in]", as Guthrie would say.

4:02 AM  

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