Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 12/5/07 w/ Additional Edits.
Bob Dylan is known to the world as a poet, a folk singer, a voice for a generation, a rebel, an innovator, an icon, and everything else he's been called. Since his debut in the early 1960s, Dylan wrote and sang anthems about changing the world early in his career only to evolve by going electric, singing about whatever is on his mind and putting on a different persona. By 2007, he remains an icon revered by the world as his last album in 2006, Modern Times debuted at #1 in the Billboard 200 album charts proving his staying power through changing musical trends and the harsh world of the music industry. The story of Dylan is a journey that is sprawling and if it was made into a film, how would it be told? Iconic indie-auteur Todd Haynes has that answer in his new film about Bob Dylan named after one of his most bootlegged songs entitled I'm Not There.
Directed by Todd Haynes based on his screen story with a script he co-wrote with Oren Moverman, I'm Not There tells the story of the life of Bob Dylan through exaggerations, truths, legends, and other tales through seven periods of his life. In the role of Bob Dylan, Haynes devised a plan to hire not one but six individuals to play Robert Zimmerman aka Bob Dylan through the different periods of his life. In those six include his Velvet Goldmine star Christian Bale along with Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, and Marcus Carl Franklin. Also starring Haynes' regular Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Charlotte Gainsbourg, David Cross, and Bruce Greenwood. I'm Not There is a whimsical, original, and inspiring masterpiece from Todd Haynes and company.
A young boy calling himself Woody Guthrie (Marcus Carl Franklin) arrives on a train singing songs he claimed were his own as he talks about protests and such. Yet, as he jams with other musicians and hangs out with poor people, a woman tells him that he's singing songs from a different time as it is 1959. After getting kicked out of a train and being found by a rich couple, he is revealed to be a runaway juvenile as Woody is in search of his identity. A few years later at the Greenwich folk music scene, a new singer-songwriter named Jack Rollins (Christian Bale) became the wunderkind of the scene. With help of a folk singer named Alice (Julianne Moore), Rollins became a reluctant folk star.
With Rollins' fame rising, an actor named Robbie Clark (Heath Ledger) plays the folk singer as he falls for a Frenchwoman named Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) as they have a blissful relationship. Yet, as Clark's fame rise, he struggles with it as it would eventually take a toll on his marriage to Claire. With Rollins disappearing, a singer named Jude Quinn (Cate Blanchett) shocks an audience at a New England music festival by playing electric instruments and angering the crowd. During a tour in England, Jude gets the Beatles high on dope, evades the attention of movie star Coco Rivington (Michelle Williams) and talks to a journalist (Bruce Greenwood) during a huge interview for the BBC. With Jude changing gears on his music, he is facing a lot of heat from fans who claimed that he's betrayed the folk music scene while a man named Arthur (Ben Whishaw) is interviewed about why he isn’t singing protest music. Arthur instead, rambles on about what is going on while not giving a straight answer.
While Robbie's marriage to Claire is disintegrating and Jack Rollins disappears, a reclusive man named Billy (Richard Gere) is hiding in the woods unaware that a man named Pat Garrett (Bruce Greenwood) is hunting for him. While Billy is looking at the Western town in the middle of the woods, he wonder why he left the world and what happened to this gift he once had. Meanwhile, Jack Rollins returns as Pastor John who then sings nothing but Christian music.
Whenever a film biography of a musician or an artist is made. There's a traditional structure. Musician comes from humble beginnings, struggles to make it. Gets discovered, sign to a record deal. Becomes a huge success, gets involved with all the trappings of stardom. Then comes the decline and eventual resurrection and comeback. Yet, with someone as unique as Bob Dylan, that's a structure that is too easy to tell and at the same, the idea of one person playing Bob Dylan couldn't work. Why? It's because Bob Dylan was an individual who evolved through whatever moment he's in. In many ways, Dylan is just trying to be himself through whatever phase he's in his peculiar, unique life.
This is something Todd Haynes understood since a film about the life of Bob Dylan isn't going to work through conventional means because it's too predictable and it's been told so many times through the traditional medium of what music bio-pics are going through. It's a genre that at the moment is becoming not just stale but also parody, which is the case of the upcoming film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. So, what is there to do? If a movie is going to be made about Bob Dylan, certain periods of his life has to be shown which includes his early folk years in the early 60s, his controversial move going to electric, his personal life, his own rambling interviews, his reclusive period in the early 70s, and his Christianity phase in the late 70s. One actor couldn't do all of those periods as well as play up to the different personas of Dylan. That's why Todd Haynes has chosen to employ six different actors for the film. Two British actors, one Welsh and the other English. Two Australian actors, man and woman. Two American actors, a 50-year old white man and a 13-year old African-American child.
While the idea of using multiple actors for one role isn't an entirely original idea. The approach Haynes and co-writer Oren Moverman chose works to show each persona and period of Dylan's life. While the entire film is told in non-linear fashion in tradition to Dylan's narrative style of writing. Each period and persona is very different not just look but in performance. While the stories move back and forth, it unveils each period to where the character is at and how they're reacting at the moment. The story of Woody is based on Dylan's exaggerations from Dylan to journalists and people during folk scene in Greenwich as the look of the boy with his hat is a reference to hat Dylan wore on his first album. Jack Rollins' story is about Dylan in his early rise to fame from the folk scene and his moment of controversy during a Civil Rights Award.
The story of Jude is partially based on the D.A. Pennebaker film Dont Look Back but mostly insprired by the rarely seen documentary Eat The Document about Dylan's tour of the U.K. while making references to his friendship with Allen Ginsberg (David Cross) and his rumored affair with Edie Sedgwick. Robbie's story is about Dylan's personal life in his relationship with Claire who is a fictional character based on his 1960s girlfriend Suze Rotolo and wife Sara Lownds with a subtle reference to his 1975 album Blood on the Tracks. The character of Arthur has only one scene which is about Dylan interrogated about his evolution as the character rambles about his life and view of things. The story of Billy is a reference to Dylan's country music exploration as well as the film Dylan starred in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.
Haynes and Moverman understood what those periods and phases in Dylan's life meant and they certainly couldn't move on after Dylan's period when became a Christian. Dylan in the 80s would be boring and too predictable while the story of Dylan now doesn't seem that interesting and it's best for only Dylan himself to tell that part of the story. Haynes understands that while the film's plot is Dylan through the periods of his own life. The plot couldn't be very simple as it's presented on screen. Haynes' direction is superb and extremely unconventional. With the black-and-white footage on the characters of Arthur, Jude, and parts of Jack and the rest of the story on color. While mainstream audiences might feel baffled and confused by the approach, it's only because this is how Dylan lived his life.
Haynes' look for the Woody/Billy worlds really gets the film in full circle as Woody is a boy finding his identity with Billy running away from that world only to rediscover it. Billy's world is essentially a fantasy world in the way he sees things as if he is Billy the Kid. With everyone wearing clown makeup and a giraffe appears, it's all because it's part of Billy's fantasy only to be aware that Pat Garrett is coming to get him. The Jude sequence which is based on the Pennebaker documentary includes a moment of fantasy as if Jude is living a dream world while the world of Robbie shows a scene of the man dealing with his fame.
The result of the whole film is extremely avant-garde and whimsical yet it works to convey the sense of evolution in Dylan's life. Through the wide lenses, super 8 films, grainy footage, and everything else. It's an understanding of where Bob Dylan was and is in his life as he goes from one world to another. Haynes' direction through each different look is distinctive and imaginative as like the in the script and in what Dylan has said in the film's trailer. All I Can Do Is Be Me. Whoever That Is. That is what the film is about and its shows that before David Bowie, before Cher, before Elvis Costello, and before Madonna. Bob Dylan was the godfather of reinvention and with Todd Haynes' direction, it reveals on who this legendary man is.
Cinematographer Edward Lachman creates a look that is unique to each period of the film with Arthur's segment shot in grainy, 16mm black-and-white footage as if he's part of an interrogation, Jude shot in gorgeous black-and-white to emphasis the documentary style of Dont Look Back, and the TV, black-and-white footage of Jack Rollins that is shot in grainy color as if the whole segment is a documentary. For the rest of the film, the Robbie story is mostly shot with tinted blue palettes and sepia-toned colors to convey the world he was in as well as his troubled mood. Lachman's photography is given higher palettes of sepia for the dream-like look of both the Billy and Woody segments while the Pastor Jack sequence is more in the look of 70s style TV. Lachman's photography is extremely superb and truly one of the year's best.
Editor Jay Rabinowitz, who took over for the late James Lyon (whom the film was dedicated to), plays to the similar style of the film with use of jump-cuts for the Jude sequence, more traditional cuts in other parts while playing to the film's non-linear tone as his editing overall is amazing. Production designer Judy Becker does amazing work in creating the different look and times of the film from the delapitated world of Billy to the 70s like world of paintings and furniture in Robbie's world and the whimsical, stylish world of swinging 60s in Jude's world. Becker's production design is extraordinarily brilliant. Costume designer John A. Dunn does great work with the different looks of the film that mimic all the album covers, clothes, and shoes that Dylan was wearing those different periods. Jean-Jacques Dion does great work with the film's hair with some of the actors sporting Dylan-like hairdo while Christian Bale gets to sport a Jew-fro as Pastor John that looks hilarious.
Sound editor Robert Jackson does amazing work in capturing the atmosphere of each period through the waves of boos and music through the scene of Jude playing electric at a folk music show. Special effects supervisor Louis Craig and visual effects supervisor Louis Morin does great work in creating the weird, whimsical world for both Jude and Billy's own fantasies. The film's soundtrack supervised by Jim Dunbar and Randall Poster features an amazing soundtrack featuring original cuts by Dylan including the unreleased title track plus various covers performed by Sonic Youth, Cat Power, John Doe, Stephen Malkmus, Mason Jennings, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Calexio, Willie Nelson, and many more. Each song is used to convey the period and world of Dylan's life as it emphasizes his evolution with Doe, Malkmus, and Jennings singing the songs during the period of Jude and Jack Rollins with Marcus Carl Franklin doing his own singing while jamming with Richie Havens.
Finally, we have the film's cast that is wonderfully assembled by Laura Rosenthal. Featuring appearances from Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth as a folk singer discussing Jack Rollins, Craig Thomas as Hewey Newton and Benz Antoine as Bobby Seale of the Black Panther party who listen to Dylan's song while being massaged, Jane Wheeler as a TV host doing a profile on Rollins, Allison Folland as a journalist interviewing Robbie, Don Francks and Roc LaFortune as Hobos Woody meets, Richie Havens as a musician Woody jams with, Kim Roberts as the woman who gives Woody advice on what he should sing, Gabrielle Marcoux and Jessey LaFlamme as Robbie & Claire's daughters, Mark Camacho as Jude's manager Norman, and Kris Kristofferson as the narrator for film's opening sequence.
Yolonda Ross gives a brief but fine performance as Angela, based on Mary Alice Artes, who introduced Jack to Christianity and made him Pastor John while Julianne Moore plays a Joan Baez-like persona as a woman nurtured Jack's talents only to feel betrayed by him. David Cross is funny as Allen Ginsberg who has a great scene about Jude's possible selling out claiming he sold out to God in a reference to a Dylan concert in Berkeley 1965. Bruce Greenwood is great in a dual role as a British journalist who is the supposed inspiration to the song Ballad of The Thin Man while also playing the aging Pat Garrett in the Billy sequence. Michelle Williams is wonderfully sexy as Coco Rivington, an Edie Sedgwick-like actress who teases Jude while acting like a diva. The film's best non-Dylan performance is truly Charlotte Gainsbourg as Claire, the mix of Suze Rotolo and Sarah Lownds who loved Robbie but couldn't face with him not at home or his attraction to other women as she would become the muse for Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. Gainsbourg's performance is just amazing showing her evolution as the woman who was Robbie's soulmate to the unhappy housewife dealing with his fame.
Marcus Carl Franklin gives a superb, upbeat performance as Woody, a young Dylan who is trying to find his own identity, tell false stories and such while jamming along with other musicians and for other people. Franklin's performance is a real breakthrough as he proves he can sing and play while grabbing the attention early in the film. Ben Whishaw is excellent as Arthur, the Dylan who is interviewed as he rambles on incoherently while not giving any straight answers. Though Whishaw is only in one entire segment, he does the most to make himself memorable. Christian Bale is brilliant as the shy, evasive Jack Rollins as he performs while trying to be controversial at the same time. Bale's performance is the one that mimics Dylan the most in voice while he shows great humor in sporting a Jew-fro as Pastor John while his performance in inspirational proving that Dylan's Christianity phase isn’t something to make fun of.
Richard Gere gives a very laconic, subtle performance as Billy as he wanders around riding a horse, looking for his dog, and trying to see what is going on. Gere doesn't do any traditional, Hollywood style of acting as he is a man who does his best work when he's quiet while pondering his own existence as the veteran actor gives a masterful performance. Heath Ledger is great as the conflicted Robbie, an actor who is tempted by women and fame as he struggles with being a family man. Ledger's performance is extremely memorable while mimicking Dylan's voice in a unique way that proves his performance in Brokeback Mountain by Ang Lee was no fluke.
The film's best performance and certainly the most entertaining of all is Cate Blanchett as Jude Quinn. Wearing a sock that she put in her pants to walk and act like a man, Blanchett brings a lot of humor, angst, and attitude to the character as tries to evade Coco, hang out with Allen Ginsberg, and do all sorts of stuff. Blanchett's performance is truly a marvel to watch as she brings Dylan to life whether he's playing electric or watching news reels saying "I can't take anymore of this man" and saying some nasty things including comments about Coco's... you know. Blanchett is just fun to watch from start to finish and it's truly one of the best performances ever shown on cinema.
***Updated 6/6/08 for DVD Info & Special Features***
The Region 1 2-disc Collector's Edition DVD of I'm Not There presents the film in its original aspect theatrical ratio and in the widescreen format. With the film sound in 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound in English for the film and the second disc in Stereo Surround Sound. The DVD also include English and Spanish subtitle for the film as well as English for the hearing impaired in both discs. The first disc is the actual feature film itself along with a slew of special features. First is a series of text introductions to the film. The first entitled Who's Not There: Six Faces of Dylan from Rolling Stone magazine reveals the six actors who play the personalities of Bob Dylan. The second entitled Tangled Up In Clues by Los Angeles Times music writer Ann Powers who explores the film through its various sources on its characters, look, costumes, and such. The first two text came from a CD-booklet of sorts that accompanied the film from its theatrical release. The third text entitled Encoding An Entertaining Enigma is pretty much a summary of the film and its characters.
The fourth and final piece of text introduction comes from famed music critic Greil Marcus. The writer who is also an avid fan of Dylan and wrote a book about The Basement Tapes recordings in a book entitled Invisible Republic writes down notes on this film. Entitled A Dream That Doesn't Demand Explanation is essentially Marcus explaining what Haynes wanted to do for the film as well as the mystery of Dylan itself through the various persona and characters being played on film. Marcus also touches on the film's title, which is an unreleased bootleg made during The Basement Tapes recordings. Now officially available in the film’s soundtrack, Marcus reveals the song's sense of mystery while though it's incomplete with Dylan just singing what he can come up with in his head. Marcus' notes are truly extraordinary for what the audience needed for the film.
The feature-length audio commentary by Todd Haynes is truly one of the most informative and enjoyable commentaries ever heard. Haynes discusses about the many mysteries and references of Dylan that's shown throughout the film. He also discusses Dylan's cultural impact in the 1960s and what he think that Dylan's motorcycle crash in 1966 really represented in relation to what was going on at the time. He also reveals why he didn't cover Dylan in the 1980s, 1990s, and so forth. What he revealed is that because of Dylan's 1966 crash, Dylan retreated away from the public and the media to live a private life and when the character of Billy hops on that train at the end of the film just as it began with Woody on the train. It shows that Dylan from 1962-1966 was definitely a high-water mark in pop culture and by the time he crashed, he stopped being this phenomenon and lived in his own terms as he's doing now in his Never-Ending Tour.
Haynes also reveals some of the film's technical tidbits while complementing the talents of his collaborators like producer Christine Vachon, cinematographer Edward Lachman, production designer Judy Becker, and editor Jay Rabinowitz among others. He also revealed the various influences he had for the film that included Federico Fellini and Jean-Luc Godard for its different look. He also talks about the actors he got for the film. Of the most professional, Christian Bale was the most serious about playing Dylan where during his scenes with Julianne Moore for the pictures, Moore ended up laughing through most of it as Haynes jokingly said she was very unprofessional.
Haynes also talked about Marcus Carl Franklin and Ben Whishaw, whom he both auditioned and enjoyed working with while with Richard Gere, he hired him not just because of his talent but of his filmography, notably Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven. With Gere, Haynes told Gere to think of those early years while Gere helped him in finding a look for the town of Riddle in those segments. Haynes' discussion on Cate Blanchett were fun to hear as he talked about Blanchett's performance with such delight while revealing that she's the closest thing to looking like Dylan. Some of her performance, Haynes, revealed was improvised including her dance with David Cross as Allen Ginsberg.
Haynes complemented the work of Charlotte Gainsbourg for her performance of Claire who he felt did everything that a great actor, actress does in the tradition of Meryl Streep. Someone who doesn't know what to do when they're about to play a character as if they don't know how to act to begin with. Then there's Heath Ledger in whom, Haynes sadly spoke about since his untimely, tragic death back in January of 2008. Haynes talked about Ledger's plan to create a bio-pic on Nick Drake that he wanted to direct but didn't want to delve into the same type of structure that often hinders most bio-pics. Ledger, originally was supposed to take a break from acting to do the Drake project but once he worked with Haynes on this film. Ledger felt it would help him create the idea on his Drake project. Haynes talked about the close friendship he had with Ledger while watching those scenes as he admits to being very sad about his death.
The second disc includes a huge amounts of special features separated into four different sections. The first one is an entire collection of trailers featuring the two theatrical trailers for the film as well as unreleased trailers. The unreleased trailers involve all the six actors playing Dylan carrying large flash cards to the classic song Subterranean Homesick Blues in the same presentation that its seminal video did for D.A. Pennebaker's Dont Look Back. There's eight versions of that trailer, six of them showing each individual actor carrying and throwing cardboard signs and two versions, short and long, with all the actors involved from their footage. It's a great trailer to emphasize the spirit of Dylan.
The second section entitled From the Edit Room features a slew of deleted scenes, alternate takes, extended sequences, and many more. The first segment is two audition tapes for Ben Whishaw and Marcus Carl Franklin. Franklin's audition with one of the casting people showed Franklin's charismatic, charming performance as he clearly plays the role of Woody with such ease as if he was a total natural. Whishaw's audition, taped at a restaurant, showed the British actor doing a passable American accent while giving the presence that was needed for his character. Two deleted scenes emerge in the film totally less than five minutes. First is a scene from Jude Quinn's segment as Jude, burned out and sick from pills is surrounded by two men arguing as they seem to recognize the singer. The second deleted scene from Billy the Kid's segment involves Billy running into a family with a dead pony and talking to a woman asking if she'a seen his dog, who ran from him.
Next is the extended/alternate scenes that are essentially the full-length performances of the songs performed in the film like Tombstone Blues with Ritchie Haven and Marcus Carl Franklin, The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll by Christian Bale miming the voice of Mason Jennings, Bale as Pastor John for Pressing On as he's miming the voice of John Doe, and Goin' To Acapulco in the Billy the Kid segment sung by Jim James of My Morning Jacket backed by Calexico.
These extended scenes and performances each do serve as great music videos as the songs themselves prove to be just as powerful as the scenes themselves. The four-minute outtakes segment is essentially a gag reel that shows all the mistakes and such that happens on the film through most of the production that included director Todd Haynes in the shot they were supposed to be shooting, a horse relieving and defecating, and other funny hijinks.
The fifth and final part of the post-production section is a touching tribute to Heath Ledger in tune to Bob Dylan's Tomorrow Is A Long Time. It opens with a deleted scene of Ledger playing the Robbie Clark character in a museum taking shots at the place with Charlotte Gainsbourg and then loads of footage and outtakes involving Ledger that proves to be extremely touching and a fitting tribute to the recently departed actor.
The third section entitled Look Back consists of three segments including the film's red carpet premiere in New York City, the making of the soundtrack, and a conversation with Todd Haynes. First is the three-minute red carpet premiere in NYC on November 13, 2007 that features brief interviews with Todd Haynes, actors Richard Gere, Julianne Moore, and Heath Ledger, and musician John Doe of X as they all talk about the film and Dylan. The twenty-one minute making-of soundtrack segment featuring Haynes, actor Marcus Carl Franklin, and the soundtrack’s producers Joe Henry, Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo, and Calexico's Joey Burns. Haynes discusses the plan to create a soundtrack for the film where Joe Henry said that the soundtrack was in the works at the time the film was in production. With Henry focusing on the Woody segment, Ranaldo on the Jude segment, and Burns on the Billy the Kid segment. Each producer were given the task of reinventing or reinterpreting the songs they’re given as they also try to capture each period.
Henry worked closely with Marcus Carl Franklin on the music they were making as Franklin, who is a musician himself, wanted to be faithful to Dylan's music and found himself more influenced by Dylan than ever. During filming, they contacted Richie Havens for Tombstone Blues with Franklin that ended up being an improvised jam with Havens later recording his own version for the film's soundtrack. Ranaldo wanted to update the songs he was given as he called on Eddie Vedder to sing All Along the Watchtowers and brought in Tom Verlaine for Cold Irons Bound while he along with several musicians including Verlaine and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley formed the Million Dollar Bashers. For the singing voice of Jude, they called in Stephen Malkamus of Pavement to sing just so he can capture that style of Dylan's vocals at the time.
Joey Burns of Calexico aimed for an Old World feel for the music that is more in the tradition of Americana as he called in Jim James of My Morning Jacket to cover Goin' To Acapulco, a song that isn't considered to be a major Dylan song among fans. Yet, its reinterpretation made it a surprise as did another obscure Dylan song, Pressing On from his Christian period. Ranaldo, who is an admitted super-Dylan freak, admits to not being grabbed on by that song in its original form but when heard John Doe's version, he was blown away and rediscovered the original song. Haynes said that the reinterpretation of these songs is great for even the hardcore Dylan fan to rediscover proving that they can be done in so many different ways.
The forty-three minute conversation with Todd Haynes segment is a collection of interviews with the director talking about Bob Dylan, the film, and how he made it. He revealed that in 2000, after living in New York City for 15 years. He decided to move to Portland, Oregon and went on a cross-country road trip where he brought a bunch of Bob Dylan music on the road. It was at that time, he was about to work on Far from Heaven as he began to re-discover Bob Dylan and also went through various bootlegs including the complete Basement Tapes recordings. After getting a collection of American folk music and early Americana, Haynes got the idea to create a Dylan film.
Yet, he and producer Christine Vachon were very careful about approaching an idea on making a film about Dylan. After going through troubling experiences with getting the music rights since Haynes' 1987 cult-short Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story is no longer being seen in public because of Richard Carpenter's refusal to let the music be used in the short and such. Haynes also went through similar trouble with Velvet Goldmine back in 1998 when David Bowie refused to give him rights for the music. Haynes contacted Dylan's eldest son Jesse, who is also a film director, and Dylan's manager Jeff Rosen about the idea. He gave them a description and then he had to write an idea about the project with some specific instructions as Rosen and Jesse Dylan gave the idea to Bob Dylan, who approved.
The film, shot in Montreal, was not easy to make because of a limited budget and shooting schedule while Haynes revealed that the actors knew they were in for a challenge in playing the Dylan parts. Haynes revealed that writing the script with Oren Moverman wasn't easy to do because Haynes wanted to tell so much of Dylan's story from the 1960s while not leaning towards the traditional bio-pic. He also revealed that Moverman, who is Israeli, really got into Dylan's Christian period and had some understanding into why Dylan became a Christian for a brief period. The only actor Haynes wrote in mind for one of the characters was Charlotte Gainsbourg in the role of Claire, as Haynes admits, she almost wanted to turn him straight. With everyone else, it was through the casting process as it proved to be a challenge but also fruitful in terms of its collaboration. It's a wonderful interview that doesn't get boring as Haynes is talking through film festival conferences, promotional interviews, and such.
The fourth section of the special features is Dylanography, a collection of text and articles exploring Dylan and notes of the film. The first is a sixty-six page article from New York Times magazine writer Robert Sullivan entitled This is Not a Bob Dylan Movie about the process Todd Haynes had to go through in making the film as well as his own filmography. It's an informative article that explored how much Haynes took into making this film about Bob Dylan while trying not to make into a conventional bio-pic. The next article is Haynes' one-page proposal to Bob Dylan on his project that was original titled I'm Not There: Suppositions on a Film Concerning Dylan that shows the plans that he was going to do along with the text that he used where originally, there was seven characters. The character that never made it to the final cut was Charlie, a Greenwich kid that was supposed to be a link between the Woody Guthrie and Jack Rollins character. Next is a chronology on Bob Dylan that explores the time line and events of his life from his birth in 1943 to the release of his last studio album Modern Times in 2006.
The next three sections on Dylan are a collection of his work in music, film, and literature. The discography of Dylan explores every album he did up till 2006 including live albums, box sets, and the bootleg series. The filmography section explores the different section of Dylan on film including the documentaries like D.A. Pennebaker's Dont Look Back, the rarely-seen Eat the Document, and Martin Scorsese's 2005 documentary No Direction Home, concert films like The Last Waltz by Scorsese and two Dylan concert videos like Bob Dylan in Concert from 1986 and the 30th Anniversary concert in 1992. Plus listed are the film's he's acted like Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, 1978's Renaldo & Clara that he directed, Hearts of Fire from 1987, 1990's Catchfire, 1999's Paradise Cove, and 2003's Masked & Anonymous by comedian Larry David.
The bibliography section includes the five books Dylan wrote like Tarantula, Writings & Drawings, Lyrics, 1962-2001, Chronicles Vol. 1, and Drawn Blank plus thirty books about Bob Dylan himself and it's a big collection. The filmmaker's notes is a collection of drawings and story boards about the compositions and shot set-ups about the film. Finally, there's a stills gallery in six separate segments to represent each of the six personalities that play Bob Dylan. Shown in black and white and a bit in color, it's a wonderful collection of the photos of the actors and on-set production that goes on. The overall special features content of the DVD is truly amazing for not just people who enjoy the film. It's also a must-have for Dylan fans while paying tribute to the late Heath Ledger.
***End of DVD Tidbits***
With the music bio-pic genre starting to run out of ideas, I'm Not There is an amazing, superb, and truly original film from Todd Haynes and company. With a great cast led by Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Ben Whishaw, and Marcus Carl Franklin as Bob Dylan, it's a film experience that has to be seen on the big screen. While mainstream audiences might be baffled by the film's unconventional tone, anyone who understands Bob Dylan and his music will get it very easily while seeing things like Pete Seeger attempting to cut the wires with an ax (which wasn't true but a great legend) happen. While it's a film that subverts expectations, the result overall is truly amazing. For a film that defies conventions and tradition in the same way Bob Dylan lived his life in those times, I'm Not There is the film to go see.
Todd Haynes Films: Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story - Poison - Dottie Gets Spanked - Safe - Velvet Goldmine - Far from Heaven - Mildred Pierce (TV miniseries) - Carol - Wonderstruck - Dark Waters (2019 film) - The Velvet Underground - The Auteurs #3: Todd Haynes
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