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Coco Forsythe

Published January 13th, 2008 | by Coco Forsythe

I’m Not There Review

Classification: 15 Director: Todd Haynes Rating: 3.5/5

It’s hard to know where to begin writing a review of I’m Not There, so clever and artful and baffling is it. To start with, it’s a biopic of Bob Dylan that never mentions him by name. To add to the confusion, Dylan is played at different stages in his life by Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Ben Wishaw, Richard Gere and Marcus Carl Franklin. Walk The Line this is not.

Todd Haynes was one of the pioneers of New Queer Cinema, and cut his cinematic teeth as part of the same generation of filmmakers as Steven Soderbergh and Richard Linklater, but he has long since cast off that narrow definition to become a lot more interesting than his contemporaries. His last feature was the gorgeous melodrama Far From Heaven, featuring a career-best performance from Julianne Moore ; a picture perfect homage to the films of Douglas Sirk which explored – and made text – the subtexts of Sirkian ‘women’s pictures’ like Imitation of Life and All That Heaven Allows. But before that he also made Velvet Goldmine, a not entirely successful but under-rated film set in the world of glam rock, starring Ewan McGregor, Christian Bale and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

If you’re a Dylan fan, you may have problems with this fictionalized version of Bob’s life, but actually this is a much more interesting way of exploring a real person’s story than a mere whistle stop tour through their highs and lows (see Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story for your classic, oh-so-easily mockable, born-into-poverty; instant fame; consequent problems with fame leading to greedy consumption of drugs; love of a good woman yadda yadda yadda). Some of the same issues are explored in I’m Not There, with various Bobs dealing with fame and fortune and its effects on their lives, but never really going into much detail. It really is one of those films that defies a conventional review. Blanchett is, ironically, the best at depicting Dylan, all skinny frame and lanky demeanour as she gives – or doesn’t give – interviews to journalists and is rude to the audience who scream Judas at live – electronic – gigs.

Elsewhere Gere plays Dylan as a recluse, apparently living in a Western with a dog called Henry; Bale as a born-again preacher, singing to the congregation; Ledger as a husband and father torn between domesticity and life on the road, all easy sex and smiling groupies. Julianne Moore pops up as a folk singer in a rockumentary segment, while Marcus Carl Franklin is a twenties style hobo, riding the railroad with only a guitar for company.

It’s brave and a little bit naughty and messily free-wheeling, and you really just need to see it for yourself. And the best thing of all is that we have three copies to give away so go over to the blog and enter. Go on. Just go.


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