Not There (USA/Germany; 135min.)
directed by: Todd Haynes
starring: Christian Bale; Cate Blanchett; Marcus Carl Franklin; Richard Gere; Heath Ledger; Ben Winshaw; Charlotte Gainsbourg; Julianne Moore
Michael says: "There's been a lot of buzz about Todd Hayne's Bob Dylan biopic, especially after it's debut in Venice. Those who know me know that I am not a fan of the biopic, but ever the experimenter, Haynes turns the life of Dylan into something magical, complex, and mind-boggling. In I'm not there, seven stages of Dylan's is portrayed by six different actors, including a woman (Cate Blanchett) and a young, African-American boy (Marcus Carl Franklin). The different Dylans aren't literal representations of the legendary singer/songwriter, but representative of his persona at the time. Haynes offers scenarios that attempt to give some possible insight into a celebrity whose evolution challenged everyone, especially his truest fans.
"I'm not sure if being a fan of Dylan, or knowing next to nothing about him will serve you better at this film. I knew next to nothing and I loved the film. I don't feel I know all that much more about Dylan after seeing the film, but that's not why I went to see the film. As a film, Haynes challenges the viewer visually, aurally, and through the intricate screenplay he co-wrote with Owen Moverman. There are touches of his earlier films peeking through in I'M NOT THERE, in fact, with this film it seems that Haynes wanted to correct the missteps he took with VELVET GOLDMINE.
"A word about the acting. The hype is true. Cate Blanchett is simply phenomenal. As Haynes said in his introduction, Blanchett took a bit of stunt casting and elevated it to such heights that you can't imagine anyone else playing the part. She's that good. Franklin is also terrific as the young, rail-traveling Dylan, and Christian Bale gives an astonishingly strong performance as the man-of-the-people Dylan of the early 60's. British actor Ben Whishaw captures his part well, and Heath Ledger does a pretty good job with one of the lest interesting incarnations of Dylan. The weak link, both performance-wise and screenplay-wise is Dylan the legend as played by Richard Gere. Gere just doesn't have the complexity or range to pull off the role. Other actors put in great turns in supporting roles. These include the divine Charlotte Gainsbourg as Dylan's wife, Julianne Moore as the folksinger (re: Joan Baez) who discovered him), Bruce Greenwood as a British journalist, and Michelle Williams as Coco (Warhol muse Edie Sedgwick.
"Technically and artuflly, Haynes wins all the way through. His use of music, both Dylan's and others complements the film marvelously. After such stellar films as POISON, SAFE, VELVET GOLDMINE, and FAR FROM HEAVEN, I'M NOT THERE is a natural and accomplished progression comining an ambitious stretch and a prodigious talent. While I don't think I'M NOT THERE is going to be a universal crowd-pleaser, it's a strong piece of cinematic art that shouldn't be missed. 4 1/2 cats
"I'M NOT THERE screened at the Toronto International Film Festival"
|Peter says: "To be perfectly honest, I no longer
know what distinguishes an independent film from a mainstream one. Is it
the size of the budget? The cast of (un)known stars? The distribution? Is
it fair to compare an HBO financed documentary that has a token theatrical
release to one where the filmmakers fight to have it shown in art houses?
I’m not sure the awards industry always knows either.
"In this case, you have Haynes, an A-list director, making an authorized biopic of Bob Dylan, with loads of A-list actors, and with a budget ($8-10 million), that would be the envy of most filmmakers, in or out of Hollywood. So I was prepared to dislike this independent movie, that is, until I saw it.
"f you believe the adage that film is a director’s medium, then Haynes has proved it again. He's really the star here, despite some stellar performances from his big cast. His exhaustive research allowed him to re-imagine how a biographical film can work - especially as it explores the limits of identity.
"If you haven’t seen it, you’ve certainly heard that Dylan is played by six different actors, not all them male, or even Caucasian for that matter, and all with different names. While somewhat daunting at first, you suddenly realize that it may have been the only way to portray the ultimate chameleon performer of our time (with apologies to Madonna).
"We see Dylan shape-shift from folk-singer to a beat/Rimbaud style poet, a plugged-in rocker, an actor, a pharma-friendly narcissus, a born-again Christian, and a country outlaw. To do justice to such an exhausting career it makes sense (in hindsight), that Haynes felt he needed to distinguish these self-invented personas by using different actors.
"The standout performance of course, is by Cate Blanchett as the mid-sixties Dylan, whose prodigious, speed-induced output was phenomenal (Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde). She achieves an amazing physical resemblance right down to the mumbling mannerisms that make us believe it’s how Dylan behaved. The scene where she’s riding in a car and Allen Ginsberg (David Cross) pulls up on a motorcycle to introduce himself is wonderful to watch.
"Hardcore fans and non-fans alike will have their reasons for being disappointed with this film. The story doesn’t follow a chronological narrative, which contributes to the complaints about accessibility, some of the allusions to Fellini and Rimbaud are easy to miss, and the soundtrack can't possibly contain everyone's personal favorite Dylan tune. But for pure movie-making skill and some remarkable performances this is one to see. 4 cats"