I'm Not There [Blu-ray][Region-Free]
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Todd Haynes (VELVET GOLDMINE, FAR FROM HEAVEN) delivers this dazzling, experimental take on the life of popular music's most revered and enigmatic artist: Bob Dylan. In keeping with the impossible-to-pin-down nature of Dylan himself, Haynes chose to cast six different actors to portray several incarnations of the groundbreaking troubadour. The result is a challenging, sprawling work that spans several decades and genres. Woody (Marcus Carl Franklin) is a young black child with a folk music obsession; Jack Rollins (Christian Bale) is an upstart folksinger whose protest songs have ignited an entire generation; Arthur (Ben Wishaw) is a Rimbaud-esque figure who has begun to embrace a new form of lyrical poetry; Robbie (Heath Ledger) is a well-known actor whose marriage to the lovely Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) crumbles under the weight of his lifestyle; Billy (Richard Gere) is a slippery frontiersman who echoes Dylan's infatuation with the Old West and American folklore; and, finally, there is the substance-abusing, confrontational Jude (Cate Blanchett), who represents Dylan in the turbulent mid-1960s. Much in the same way that Dylan appropriated a vast array of musical styles to create his own vernacular, Haynes does the same thing with I'M NOT THERE, using his expansive knowledge of movie history to pay homage to a variety of movements and genres (Godard, Fellini, Lester, etc.). The typically extraordinary cinematographer Edward Lachman outdoes even himself this time around, incorporating so many different visual styles that it's impossible to decide which is the most beautiful. While the cast all fare well in their roles, it is Cate Blanchett who runs away with the picture, proving once again that she is one of the finest actors the movies have ever seen.
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However, this is a review of the 2-disk collector's edition of I'M NOT THERE. It is one of the worst collector's editions I've come across! Two audition tapes of the least used actors less than minute long. The special intro is written, as are the bios, discography and many other "special features." There were two deleted scenes, extended scenes,outtakes all told less than 4 minutes of film that added nothing to the movie. Even the tribute to Heath was less than 70 seconds and just a montage of him in the film on the film set. Red carpet 60 seconds of nothing. I've seen better special features on rented movies from Redbox. Don't waste your money on this "collector's edition," when you have the choice to buy the original.
Arthur Rimbaud is not so much a character as he is a narrator played by Ben Whishaw seeming to give no real answers to whomever is questioning him and sounding a lot like Dylan in the mid-60's. Cate Blanchett plays Dylan during his amphetamine electric days. Blanchett's performance by itself would be the only reason you need to see this film. She is so magnificent, you don't have to even pretend that she's Dylan. She IS Dylan as far as I'm concerned. I can't imagine anyone who could have been better. Sidekicks Allen Ginsberg, Bobby Neuwirth and Edie Sedgwick are portrayed in the movie. A Joan Baez like character played by Julianne Moore makes an appearance. The Bobby Neuwirth character is on the receiving end of a vicious putdown by Blanchett's Dylan filled with all kinds of vulgar language I can't say here. A Dylan-obsessed fan will pick up on the visual hints throughout the film such as the tarantula. You will hear Dylan quotes throughout the dialogue. Some scenes are reminiscent of real events while others are more dreamlike and seem to be what someone wished had happened instead of what really did. I watched the film with my mother who is in her 70's and only a casual listener of his music and she didn't really get it. It was sort of a lukewarm reaction from her. She hasn't read anything about Dylan. She reacted to the scenes Blanchett was in and the Jack character the most because they evoke scenes of Dylan back in the day.
I would say this movie leaves you with quite a lot to chew on when it's over - in particular the scenes where Arthur Rimbaud gives advice for someone who wants to go into hiding: Create Nothing. Advice no artist or writer ever listens to. You can never take back that which you have created and you will never be in control of it. Look for Jim James from My Morning Jacket performing during the Richard Gere scenes - not to be missed. Overall, I would say if you are a major Dylan fan you must get this. If you really don't know much about Dylan I would tell you to read about him or watch some of the footage available of him performing and being interviewed first so that you have the fun of recognizing things in the film. In watching it you never can tell what exactly was created by Dylan and what was created by his fan's image of him - or even the media's image of him. It all sort of mixes together here. Also, Thank you to whomever was responsible for putting the real Dylan songs in the background throughout the film. It really would have taken away from the film had they not been there. One last thought, take this film for what it is: an imaginative piece of art that never tries to peel layers off of any of the Dylan myths, but maybe tries to add a couple more layers instead.