I'm Not There Todd Haynes
Published Nov 30, 2007Director Todd Haynes has made one unusual biopic about Bob Dylan. Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven) has cast seven different actors to portray Dylan in seven phases of his life: folkie, born again, rock god, divorced dad, Guthrie-ite, Western outlaw and movie star. Dylan is never mentioned by name but the script lifts quotes from vintage press conferences and even borrows from an unreleased outtake from the obscure 1966 film Eat The Document. In that sense, Im Not There is a game of spot the reference for Dylan fans. Im Not There captures the character of Dylan but only in certain phases. Cate Blanchett steals the show with her portrayal of Dylan as the 1966 rock star hipster; she nails Bob as the snarling speed freak of the Blonde On Blonde era. On the other end of the scale, the Billy The Kid subplot starring Richard Gere has such a tenuous link to Dylan that it looks like its in the wrong film. However, Julianne Moore does a fine job portraying the caustic yet candid Joan Baez character, Alice. This is not a factual biography reflecting historic events and dates but a symbolic one. For instance, in one scene Bob and the Beatles giggle on the grass (get it?). The various Bobs overlap and are intercut, threatening to lose the audience in places. There is no story arc; this film is a collection of character impressions that are juxtaposed like several figures in a mural. Dylan is a complex man and this is a complex movie. Haynes has adopted a daring structure that largely pays off but meanders a little too often over the 135 minutes. Im afraid that only Dylan fans will "get this film, since they know Dylans mercurial life, which is full of contradictory actions and attitudes. The uninitiated may just get lost.
What particular Dylan albums or music were you listening to?
Haynes: The stuff that was blowing my mind I never listened to before: the first Bootleg Series released on Columbia. When I heard "She's Your Lover Now right out of that Blonde On Blonde period I was just astounded. Throughout this whole time I was reading [Dylan] biographies and those incredible interviews from '65 and '66 like the Playboy interview, which were performative acts of literary genius. They were inherently dramatic and I felt something could be done with them.
How did you cast Cate Blanchett and Kim Gordon?
[Sonic Youth] are just friends in a band I've always loved, and Kim's been acting and wants to do acting roles. I made a rock video with them a long time ago. Thurston [Moore] and Steve [Shelley] were part of the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack. Lee Rinaldo produced all the tracks for the Jude story in this film. And Cate is just one of our great actresses in film and stage. She's an amazing mind and sensibility. She was terrified to do this, but something inside her was bitten by the challenge and risk. (Alliance Atlantis)