Film Reviews

I'm Not There Todd Haynes

Rating - 6/10

Although I'm not a Bob Dylan fan, I am a Todd Haynes fan. I think you probably need to be a Dylan fan to love I'm Not There. Haynes mixes stories focusing on different actors, each with a distinct film style, playing different iterations of the Dylan persona. The approach is doubtlessly interesting, and the execution is masterful but exhausting.

I'm Not There feels long and drawn out in much the same way Haynes' Velvet Goldmine was. Velvet Goldmine, however, was a lot more fun, with its imaginary glam rock composites and glittery fantasias. Dylan, in any of his personas, is almost anti-cinematic. Though I know he is a talented songwriter whose influence is difficult to fathom, I've never found him appealing or engaging, and I've never found his affected refusal to be any number of things profound. This is, of course, opinion, and rather shallow opinion at that, but its also an obstacle to embracing the film.

Over and over again we see Dylan lionized, harangued, and pigeonholed, and over and over again he rejects his criticism and the labels imposed on him, often by being an asshole (Heath Ledger's "Robbie Clark" kind of specializes in "asshole Dylan"). Only Cate Blanchett's "Jude Quinn" (Bob Dylan in "Don't Look Back") generates his own substantial interest or momentum, the other Dylans tend to mope around and look pretty.

Despite these flaws, or rather the flaw of the film being structured around a series of petulant voids, I'm Not There ends up being well worth the trouble of watching it. It is technically impeccable. Haynes is kind of a genius with pastiche and recreation, capturing textures perfectly but elevating them with his own highly personal stamp. Cinematographer Ed Lachman is among the best working. The novel conceit is slightly brilliant, managing to tell the stories of Dylan in a way that a conventional biopic could not. If only the stories themselves possessed more fascination.