Directed by: Todd Haynes / 2007
Without ever mentioning the name Bob Dylan, director Todd Haynes’ brilliant, dream-like "I'm Not There" morphs in and out of many phases, psyches, mystiques and masks of an icon forever fused into a cultural canon ball flying and popping louder than most any before or after. The film employs different actors (Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Christian Bale, Ben Whishaw and Marcus Carl Franklin) to portray the legend's takes on life, love, music, words, spirit, faith, formatives, public appearance, confusion, or just whatever has been passed down the line as to what and who we think we know he is or isn’t. One thing for fact with Dylan is that if there ever was a tally of the most extra-ordinary and fascinating lives who’d put and poured themselves to their fullest potential and contributions, he would be in the top ten. In fact, he might have several spots on the list. Much of the popular singer-songwriter's trail seems now more than ever routed in myth than non-fiction, even after forty years of evidence in the public eye. He is a continual subject of much study, debate, decoding and controversy, and offers a treasure chest of conversation and creativity. Today's Dylan (now well into his '60s) is of a totally different person than that of the one that first hit the ground morphing in a professional and almost prophetic manner over forty years ago. Forty years isn't really a long time on this Earth, but thinking about forty years back with Dylan dropping his bombs, seems like a hundred years ago due to how much he is considered responsible for shaking and destroying many halls in the hot beds that are the culture coals. It’s amazing he’s lasted this long. One can certainly argue with the fact that time is always changing, and Dylan himself would be the first to say that a person or a song can't change things. But, I think that a person can shake things up enough to get heads to turn and feet to stomp. He came at the right time, place and with the right things to say and with a heap of inertia, spunk, passion, soul and spirit. And oddly enough Dylan has managed to continue by changing within the times and within his self. Just when you think he's slipped away, he is still "there" and back with something new, and then soon enough with his back on it and onto another trail of his now wrinkled brow serving as his map that only he knows where he goes or has been. Even as a fan, devourer and studier of the man's mound of work, I tend to sometimes be dumbfounded by the fact that he is still "there", still "here", still creating and moving and shifting. In fact, even though I know he is a just a man (and I don't aim to put him higher than just a man who happens to share his gifts, views and observations…), knowing that he will be performing soon less than ten city blocks from where I sit seems very bizarre and surreal to me. Unfortunately, I can't attend the concert, but just the thought of him being "there" down the road, kind of keeps me scratching my head. "I'm Not There" is not perfect, not for everybody and if you are not a Dylan fan or looking for any sort of definitive answers, then please don’t waste your time. The intent is not to tell the whole story or to even give you any answers. Yet, it tells a story that could honestly go on for days and days. It tells a story staying true to its subject, even if the subject itself is in the shadows of fact or fiction pending on what you, or even he thinks. The storybook screen does Dylan great justice and in great artistic measure as well. From what I understand it is the only non-documentary film on him that he has given the green light and endorsed. The film is certainly "there", and at the creative crossroads between the screen and the viewer is a thick smoke shroud of much mystery and wonder like a dream that leaves one with their head scratching at the crackling jack outside of the box that we wish to put back in. Because, as people who can generally have anything we want, including our own answers to things, we want the prize for ourselves. It is just that fleeting finger grasped feeling that fascinates and moves me into and out of each phase of Dylan whether it's the man, the music, the movies, the mysteries, and among others, the mind he’s offered. There are more than enough prizes and surprises to keep me scratching and sniffing for more layers, more darks and lights to be unveiled. And with a forever extending soundtrack in surreal symphonic stereo sound that keeps me coming back to turn the handle on the box to see what kernels will pop up and out time and time again.