Wednesday, 9 January 2008

I'm Not There

Director: Todd Haynes
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger & Richard Gere

An impressive attempt to change the, stale, formula of the biopic which is well suited this time around due to the enigma that is Bob Dylan.

Dylan is different things to different people. To some he's the folk music genius that wrote protest songs, to others he was the star of the 70s verging on rock music whilst donning black sunglasses, to some he was a poet, to others even a sell out. Because it is hard to pin down 'who' Dylan 'is' and the 'why' of it all, it is fitting that the director chose to represent differents periods of Dylan's life so far with different actors and environments.

The casting here is great. To represent Dylan's changing attitudes, while demonstrating his music's relatability to people from all walks of life, he is represented by four white men, a black boy and a white woman showing his appeal across different races and gender and ages. With the exception of Gere, in the twilight years segments, all the scenes and casting are top notch. Most attention will go to Cate Blanchett for capturing Dylan's superstar years where his music and attitudes changed most dramatically, and this attention is deserved. However, I was more impressed by the segments with Christian Bale and Heath Ledger. Ledger gives a strong performance of Dylan the failed father, the failed lover, his little seen family life while Bale plays Dylan in his years where his music began to get noticed, when it was most pure and also later when he tries to make up for his failures after being blinded by fame. Bale plays the innocence very well with Dylan as a quiet man expressing his feelings through his folk songs.

Not every scene works, the Gere segments portray Dylan as a rambling man in an old prospecting town which feels out of place and it's meaning is unclear ad the film sometimes stretches itself a bit thin here and there, but mostly it holds together well and the crisscrossing between eras and actors is well handled.

Overall, this is worth a watch if you've followed Dylan's career and even if you're a casual listener like myself. There is insight in the film for all fans and can show you sides you never knew. If you're not a fan though then you might not enjoy but it is still a great twist on the biopic picture.
Rating: 3/5