Last night the better half and I finally saw “I’m Not There,” the unconventional Bob Dylan biopic directed by Todd Haynes.
Just as a point of trivia, it was being shown in the Lincoln Square Theater in New York, on two screens. The 7pm showing we attended was something less than a third full, in my estimation. I can’t think what prompted the theater to put such a film on two screens. I’m not knocking it by saying this; it’s just that it’s not exactly “Spiderman III,” y’know?
Anyway: with expectations rather lowered based on the views of others whom I respect, I really went in just wanting to enjoy what I could of the film, and not waste my time and money. On that basis, I honestly felt it was a pretty good comedy. I don’t mean this in a backhanded way. For a full-immersion-type Dylan fan, who has read all the interviews and encountered all the stories and read all the crazy theories and has heard all the music, to get elements of all of it thrown at you in the film’s non-sequential style is rather comic in itself. Then, there’s all the great lines that Dylan has said at one time or another, coming out of the various actors’ mouths (cut-up and out of context, of-course). Those are some real funny lines. Admittedly, parts of the film were very tedious to me (e.g.: the fake talking heads droning on in a dull faux-documentary style). Still, I smiled and laughed quite a bit overall. My better half wasn’t as amused — make of it what you will.
That being said, I think the film has essentially nothing significant to say about Bob Dylan, and, were it to be looked at as any kind of attempt at rendering a true picture of him, it would have to be considered as being deeply flawed. I think that this has been pointed out in a whole variety of ways by others already. I might write something more on that angle at a later stage, but for now I’d just leave it at that.
One thing I will say is that I came out of the theater feeling that my favorite part of the film was — perhaps surprisingly — Richard Gere’s. His was the least Dylan-affected role. He plays “Billy,” a bemused, stoic and rustic character living in a landscape populated by people straight out of the songs on the Basement Tapes. The Dylanesque noise that exists in the other roles does not intrude on his performance. He might be anybody. I like that. When I first heard about the film’s concept (so many years ago now!) I honestly thought it would be more like how Gere plays it. That is, that you would have sundry different actors (and actresses), acting in scenarios comparable to some of those in Dylan’s career, but not actually aping Dylan per se. I think the relative freedom of Gere’s part is also attributable to the fact that it’s the only role that doesn’t really come out of the myths and gossip surrounding Dylan’s life, but is instead largely built around those Basement Tapes songs. And that suggests an entirely different film that might have been made, or might one day be made, where all the characters come out of Dylan’s songs, with the “hero” or observer character just going from scene to scene or period to period. (Give me 60 million and I’ll see it gets made.)
Todd Haynes has recently said that he doesn’t know if Bob Dylan has even seen the movie yet. He’s also never personally spoken to Bob, although he received carte blanche all those years ago to make the film he wanted to make. I personally can’t imagine the “subject” of this film being able to sit through it without getting physically queasy. On the other hand, maybe he’d just see it as a pretty good comedy, too.
There was a movie I seen one time, I think I sat through it twice.
I don’t remember who I was or where I was bound.
All I remember about it was it starred Gregory Peck, he wore a gun and he was shot in the back.
Seems like a long time ago, long before the stars were torn down.