Nov 24

I’m Not There (Four out of Four)

Category: Lost Films

Wow, did 2007 suddenly become a great year for movies?

Looking back over my past few reviews for the sadly under-read SAB blog, I can’t help but think that there’s an awful lot of positive-to-all-out-raves in there. I can’t even think about what my favorite movie of the year is. That’s always a good sign.

One of my favorite directors, Todd Haynes, he of “Safe,” “Velvet Goldmine” and film school favorite “Far From Heaven,” returns with what is probably the most ambitious movie of the year. Seriously. It makes “Across the Universe” look as daring as an Oprah rerun.

The story is simple: Six actors play six different incarnations of “Bob Dylan”. And it’s GREAT. Only Ben Whishaw, as a Dylan under interrogation, is wasted. He does a good job, but he doesn’t really do anything (he has the least screen time by far. In fact, I don’t think he ever gets out of his chair). But the other five, whoa boy.

Cate Blanchett gives what just might be her best performance as a Dylan locked in a Fellini fever dream. Heath Ledger gives his now dependably great work as an actor who played a different Dylan in a movie. Christian Bale plays THAT Dylan, who went from folk singer to preacher. Marcus Franklin plays a young black kid that just wants to sing about the past. And Richard Gere plays a Dylan that’s just trying to escape the world.

It’s a movie that is richly rewarding, infuriating, and truly unique and haunting. Several moments gave me chills, a rarity for me. It’s a movie about hiding, about masks, about loss. And when it ended, I felt truly taken aback.

It’s flawed, sure, but who cares? It wrestles with Dylan’s songs in as mature, adult a way as one could hope for. When Bale sings “Pressing On” in his church service, it’s truly moving. When Jim James sings “Goin’ to Acapulco” at a funeral, you’ll feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. “The Ballad of a Thin Man” montage rivals (and probably surpasses) any of Taymor’s work in “Across the Universe”.

I think comparing those two films is important, and endlessly fascinating. The Beatles make an amazing cameo in “I’m Not There,” but it’s there the similarities end. To compare the two, “Universe” is to MTV what “I’m Not There” is to XPN. One is style, the other is substance AND style. While “Universe” is much more about the catchier song and the flashier image, “I’m Not There” is digging for something a lot deeper.

It’s not a movie all of you will like, but it is a movie that some of you will LOVE. If it comes around here, I plead with you to check it out.

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1 Comment so far

  1. Matt Thornton November 24th, 2007 2:49 PM

    Wow. That’s pretty much as glowing as a review can get.