Yesterday, we saw "I'm Not There", the Todd-Haynes-biopic about Bob Dylan, as the DVD sale started in Germany yesterday.
Dylan is split into six different people, an actor, a folk singer, an electrified troubadour, Rimbaud, Billy the Kid, and Woody Guthrie.
Despite the six incarnations of Bob Dylan, the film doesn't show any structure. There's no narrative, it's a mixture of facts (or what we've come to think of facts of Dylan's life) with the wildest chunks of fiction.
More than once during watching I was confused. The film is a challenge: dense, totally dense, full of quickly changing images, changing from black-and-white to color, full of symbols, allusions, moving back and forth, one step forward, two back - chaotic. My brain wanted to connect - what I knew from Bob Dylan as seen in the Scorsese documentation: No Direction Home with what I saw now - and succeeded only partially.
Yes, the images were impressive, and yes, the music was great with a lot of unknown pieces. The actors did a fine job, especially Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin and Charlotte Gainsbourg. It's an enormous and utterly complex attempt to describe and catch the life of an outstanding person - but I'm still irritated and - not there.
With a blur of these images in mind I started to browse the internet for reviews.
I think, Robert Sullivan's article in the New York Times captures the dilemma best:
This is not a Bob Dylan Movie, by Robert Sullivan
...."Because Todd Haynes's Dylan film isn't about Dylan. That's what's going to be so difficult for people to understand. That's what's going to make ''I'm Not There'' so trying for the really diehard Dylanists. That's what might upset the non-Dylanists, who may find it hard to figure out why he bothered to make it at all. And that's why it took Haynes so long to get it made. Haynes was trying to make a Dylan film that is, instead, what Dylan is all about, as he sees it, which is changing, transforming, killing off one Dylan and moving to the next, shedding his artistic skin to stay alive. The twist is that to not be about Dylan can also be said to be true to the subject Dylan. ''These so-called connoisseurs of Bob Dylan music, I don't feel they know a thing or have any inkling of who I am or what I'm about,'' Dylan himself told an interviewer in 2001. ''It's ludicrous, humorous and sad that such people have spent so much of their time thinking about who? Me? Get a life please. . . . You're wasting you own.'' It might sound like a parlor game, or like cheating on Haynes's part, but to make sense in a film about Dylan would make no sense. ''If I told you what our music is really about, we'd probably all get arrested,'' Dylan once said.
Here's the trailer: