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I'm Not There DVD

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Ruminations on the life of Bob Dylan, where seven characters embody a different aspect of the musician's life and work.

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  • Average Rating for I'm Not There [2007] - 4 out of 5


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  • I'm Not There [2007]
    Ed Howard

    Bob Dylan does not actually appear in Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There" until a still photo at the very end, but his spirit, music, ideas, and artistic sensibility fill every frame of the film nonetheless. The film is not so much a Dylan biopic as a collection of associations and riffs on the "idea" of Dylan, his pop cultural resonance and the changing characters he's embodied over the years. There are six pseudo-Dylans here, six incarnations of various aspects of the chameleonic singer's personality and style. There's a rail-riding young black boy named Woody Guthrie (Marcus Carl Franklin), a poet named Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Whishaw), an East Village folk singer who later becomes a born-again preacher (Christian Bale), an angry young actor who plays this folk singer in a movie (Heath Ledger), a gnomic and drugged-out 60s rock star (Cate Blanchett, doing an impeccable imitation of "Don't Look Back"-era Dylan), and finally the aging outlaw Billy the Kid (Richard Gere). These names and characters constitute a dense web of references, both to Dylan's own music and to the literature and pop culture that formed a large part of his frame of reference. The film rapidly cuts between these different characters, some of whom have stories to follow, and others who seem to simply exist in hermetic, abstract vignettes. These stories often have resonance with Dylan's life and biographical details, but they could hardly be said to trace his life exactly. It's more like an elaborate code for Dylan fanatics, one which at times would probably seem opaque to neophytes. But even for those who can't always follow the density and referentiality of Haynes' Dylan maze will doubtless find plenty to enjoy in the film's pastiche of visual styles, from Pennebaker to Godard to Fellini, and the glorious music on the densely layered soundtrack. There are, of course, plenty of Dylan's own songs, plus a multitude of fascinating covers and live performances, most notably Franklin's bluesy front porch jam and a stunning performance of the Basement Tapes song "Goin' to Acapulco" by Jim James with Calexico. James performs the song in the film dressed up as Desire-era Dylan with thick white makeup caked on his face, and it's a strange and moving moment indicative of the film's oddball beauty.

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