Friday, June 13, 2008

My final verdict on "I'm Not There"...

I fucking loved it.

I know, I know, I waited too long to see it, and by now its as cold as yesterday's fish. My problem -- I have an issue with standard-fare biopics. Worst offender: Oliver Stone's odious "The Doors," which works best if you view it as a comedy (it has as many quotable lines as "Caddyshack," honestly -- "Naw, I ain't drinkin', ma, just a little low-grade acid!" Who says that?). Recently, I liked and then kinda didn't like "Walk The Line" which featured some magnificent performances but had the whole "this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened" approach, and by the end you know fuck all about who Johnny Cash actually was. You knew he wore black and liked prisoners a lot, and that's about it.

Which is why "I'm Not There" is so fucking brilliant. By the end you really don't know much about Bob Dylan's life, but you feel like maybe you know Bob Dylan. By splintering his personality into a series of vignettes only nominally related to Actual Dylan and by eschewing standard-fare biographical narration for a surrealist approach, you end up deep within the characters that Dylan created for himself, and at the end maybe feel like you have a fragment of an understanding of the guy, which is really all you can hope for.

Random thoughts:

- Yes, I totally dug the scenes with Richard Gere and the weird western town with the giraffes. I get it. It makes sense.

- Cate Blanchett was fucking ROBBED, Oscar-wise. That might have been my favorite performance from last year, honestly. She's a fucking marvel. She's channeling the Bob of that era, but infusing him with this desperate exhaustion -- so damn good.

- Wow, Christian Bale sure can sing, huh? I loved him as Jesus Dylan best, totally forgotten by time, singing his songs to a tiny crowd of the faithful, that was phenomenal.

- What can be said about Heath Ledger? As a father who doesn't get to see his kid much, those scenes broke my fucking heart. So much sadness in that guy, and how good is Charlotte Gainsbourg? Magnificent.

- The little kid at the beginning, singing with Richie Havens -- lord god, that scene brought chills.




ashley! said...

The thing about this movie is that it made me feel like even I could be Bob Dylan--it was very human.

It was like watching him discover who he was and ultimately, you realize that it's all him. There were so many sides to him--so many things he believed/didn't believe in.

Oh, and I also kind of hate admitting that I like Cat Power (ugh), but on the soundtrack, she does a really sweet cover of "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again." It's almost as good as Cate Blanchett's portrayal of Dylan.

It's reviews like this that make me wonder why Jim DeRogatis still has a job voicing his opinion.

Jon Hunt said...

You really know how to butter a person up, Ash -- by mentioning his LEAST FAVORITE REVIEWER IN THE UNIVERSE and then saying I'm cooler than him!

Patrick said...

i gotta disagree about charlotte gainsbourg's part. it's not her, it's me. actually, it's the director. it was the most "de riguer" part of the movie because it's his most legendary period, and this dooms any dramatic recreation of it because it is already well documented in Pennebaker's docs: don't look back and eat the document, not to mention the SF press conference, the Rolling Stone interview, the albums that came out at the time, and the live album issued in '98. no one performs himself better than Dylan, and that was painfully obvious watching Gainsbourg. the part that dylan has least acted out in public was the heath ledger part which was deeply affecting and really hit on some eternal mysteries. the richard gere part was really poncey i thought and seemed more like a reason to hate the backwoods "old, weird america" posturing which seems like a cop-out to me considering the American experience in reality. Christian Bale singing in Stockton was really great. I think the best music in the film, sounding WAAAY better than his actual records sounded back then. anyway, I'm glad you finally saw it!

Anonymous said...

Umm, Patrick, you thinkin' of CATE BLANCHETT, not Gainsbourg.

Amazing film. We need to talk more in depth about it, Jon. Step by the Room and thread it.


LAP said...

Seriously though Jon, you write with a real passionate immediacy and it really makes a reader remember more about the subject you're talking about than other people do.

This sounds excellent, and since I am working again, it's all about entertainment on dvd since I have to live my life in real time.

Jeffrey M. Rosado said...

I talked at length about the movie on a recent podcast of mine...and I just absolutely loved it...and what I dug mostly was the fact that it wasn't a standard point a to point b biopic formulaic retread....Haynes took a lot of chances with this film and for the most part, his approach is spot on.....Blanchett is amazing and I think if the film hadn't have peaked so early buzz wise, she would have won.

The scene where Ledger gets aggravated at a photographer for invading his privacy was eerie in light of his death...

On a happier note, the brilliant tip of the hat to the Beatles was brilliant and hilarious.

As for the gospel tune segment with Christian Bale, that's actually John Doe from the band X doing that brilliant lead vocal on that tune; it's my favorite scene in the film....another thing I loved about the movie was it's brilliant attention to period details from album cover recreations to nailing the important events in Dylan's career from the electric segment at Newport to that infamous moment at the Royal Albert Hall where Bob didn't back down from that irate fan...and for those that want to check out the real Bob's live album from that historic gig, you MUST seek out the 4th volume of the Bootleg Series....I think the live version of Like A Rolling Stone betters the studio take, especially Mickey Jones' amazing dramatic drumming (in place of Levon Helmfor this particular tour with The Band).

Accepts Affection said...

You made me want to see this movie. I've been very unsure because it's been billed as being for "true Bob Dylan" fans. But I've been wanting to do Christian Bale for as long as I can remember (wanting to do anyone" do I'm going to give the film a try. Thanks.

Accepts Affection said...

Wow. My last comment was all sorts of fucked up. Hope you like it!

Jon Hunt said...

The word "do" appears alot! But I think I got the gist of it!

Accepts Affection said...

Do you?

Get it?

Do not even go there.


You're a great writer.

Howdy Doo-dy.
Seriously, I enjoy your blog. Do keep up the good work. Da-dum.

Accepts Affection said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
patrick said...

i briefly retract the use of charlotte gainsbourg's name.