Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Dylan all ‘There’ in new film

To both our generation and the
one that preceded it, Bob Dylan has been one of the nation's most captivating
figures. It is this shared aura that director Todd Haynes has captured in the
film "I'm Not There." Using a narrative not unlike Dylan's autobiography "Chronicles,"
"I'm Not There" interweaves seven seemingly unrelated points in his life to
create a larger statement about the man we've come to know as Bob Dylan.

Besides the structure of the
movie, one of the most interesting aspects of "I'm Not There" is the casting
of, among others, a woman (Cate Blanchett, "The Aviator") and a black man (Marcus
Carl Franklin, "Law & Order") to portray aspects of Dylan. Todd Haynes'
diverse casting choices, along with the fact none of the actors in the movie
actually play a character named Bob Dylan (Cate Blanchett's character of Dylan
during his transition from folk to rock is named Jude, for example), come
together to paint the picture that Bob Dylan is everyone, and everyone is Bob

In presenting this metaphor,
"I'm Not There" makes many artistic interpretations of events in Dylan's life. For
instance, in the scene of Dylan's 1965 performance at the Newport Folk Festival
where he shocked the audience by playing electric instead of acoustic, Dylan
and his band take the stage and open their instrument cases, and, instead of
guitars, they pull out machine guns and spray the audience with bullets. This is
a creative way to startle the film audience into feeling what the Newport audience felt Dylan
was doing to folk music.


At other times, however, this
technique seems trite and trivializing. In the scene of the infamous "Judas"
moment at a 1966 concert in Manchester,
England, the
audience member in question screams "Judas," which causes the rest of the crowd
to do the same and subsequently storm the stage, forcing Dylan off. Haynes'
unimaginative scene takes what was one of the most pivotal moments in Bob
Dylan's career and makes it seem farcical.

But, where the film's
interpretations fall flat, "I'm Not There" makes up for it with its fantastic
cinematography. Visually, the movie couldn't be better, as it presents the
darkness of Dylan's drug-fueled struggle with fame and a vintage cast to Dylan's
image in the tail end of the 19th century as Billy the Kid.

Another strength of the film is its
superb acting, particularly from the aforementioned actors Cate Blanchett and
Marcus Carl Franklin. Blanchett has Dylan's mannerisms down to a fine science, from
how he carried himself to how he covered his mouth with his hand. In addition, Franklin's performance
makes him seem decades wiser than his young appearance would have you believe.

The greatest failing of "I'm Not
There," however, is the overanalyzing of Bob Dylan's life and actions. Just
when viewers think they have a hold on the film's takeaway message, it presents
something completely new and different and proceeds to chug along. This leaves
the viewer so bombarded with conflicting morals for the story that it makes the
last 20 minutes of the film drag on and on.

On paper, the idea of seven
different actors portraying various parts of Bob Dylan's life seems like a good
idea; however, once the idea leaves the page and enters the screen, the idea
doesn't seem quite as exquisite. Still, Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There" is a good
film despite its shortcomings. Those who know little of Dylan will not be able
to understand much of what is presented in the film. Even still, those who do may
not even be able to understand everything. In the end, that's exactly the type
of man Bob Dylan is — some of him we understand, but a lot him we don't.

3.5 stars out of 5

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