Todd Haynes “I’m Not There”

Finally saw Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There. I’m a fan of Haynes’, but the movie struck me as really smart and interesting, wonderfully apt in its treatment of Dylan’s identities, but somewhat maddening as a viewing experience. One problem, maybe, is that the postmodern identity-scrambling sometimes simply underlines the basic bio-pic problem: that is, since the actors portraying Dylan are continually changing (and many of them make little effort at verisimilitude), you’re constantly re-confronted with the artificiality and falsity of filmed biography. Of course that’s the point, but the effect is sometimes just clunky and silly. Sarah commented that certain scenes recalled A Mighty Wind, the Christopher Guest mockumentary about the 60s folk music scene: e.g. the Joan Baez character reminiscing.

The movie is always tossing out funny, clever, and memorable details: one I loved, for example, was Dylan clowning around with the Beatles, who appear as manic Teletubbies (played by a quartet of Frenchmen, it seems). It only lasts for about 5 seconds, but is hilarious and perfect. As everyone pointed out, Cate Blanchett is brilliant. Heath Ledger was melancholy to watch. David Cross is amusingly absurd as Ginsburg. I hated Richard Gere and ended up fast-forwarding through some of the late Billy the Kid scenes he’s in. I kind of wish the whole movie had been Blanchett — would’ve been more conventional but more effective, maybe.

Final verdict: not as good as the Dylan memoir. The movie didn’t do too well, did it? You pretty much need to know a lot about Dylan to appreciate it. E.g. why is there a tarantula crawling — that’s a reference to his book of poems; he was a big fan of the wrestler Gorgeous George; there’s a lot of that.

Just listened to a bit of Haynes’ commentary over the last 5 minutes or so — quite eloquent, I’m almost tempted to go back to hear more of it. He ends by saying “I’m just so glad I got to make a movie that ends with ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands'” and there is something to that — it’s great just to have an excuse to listen to these songs in a new context. (Once in sophomore year of high school I spent much of an evening listening to that song — which was an entire album side — over and over. I was a romantic little soul.)

I’m really glad I finally saw Dylan live this year. The university basketball stadium wasn’t exactly the ideal setting, but I loved him and the country-western-Mariachi band he has going these days.

The David Hadju book Positively Fourth Street is great btw and gives a funny, less-reverent than the norm depiction of Dylan (who comes across as a complete jerk, at least some of the time)

3 thoughts on “Todd Haynes “I’m Not There””

  1. Bearded loon on the piano ? I thought I was looking closely, but I missed it. I DID get the calisthenics (sp ?) in black knee high socks however….but I did like Lykke Li (of whom of course I’d never heard)…

  2. I just meant the nutty hippie guy playing the organ (making a subtle ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ reference too). I think you put this comment in the wrong box, btw…

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