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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I'M NOT THERE



Bob Dylan, over the course of decades in the public spotlight is everything from a 60s pop icon to a angry recluse, a poet political sage, cowboy individualist, religious rivivalist, and a traveling troubadour. How do you play all these characters, wear all these hats, manifest all these roles? Better yet, how does a filmmaker portray them?

Todd Haynes has been American indie film's deconstructionist and semiologist and for him the big question is how do you cast Bob Dylan? Haynes' answer: six different actors; one of them a woman (Cate Blanchett), Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, and one a young black actor Marcus Carl Franklin all using alias to evoke the periods in Dylan's life.

In addition to switching and manipulating film stocks, Haynes also jumped between psuedo-documentary (i.e., THIS IS SPINAL TAP) and dramatization while turning bio-pic genre on its ear. Not only does genre shifting present the director with unique challenges and the audience with a suspension of disbelief, it also provides an opportunity to describe Dylan in a fashion Dylan always cast himself -- a private man who's public faces were masked fictional personifications as whole and mulitfaceted as the songs the Hibbing native wrote and sang.

Two years ago I spoke with Todd Haynes when he was in Minneapolis at a reception for the 75th anniversary of the Jerome Foundation. I always felt Dylan in London, who leaped to the height of his fame in 1965 with his World Tour, was the most other-worldly of all the Dylan personifications over time. This was not the Dylan of Hibbing, Minnesota. This was a highly groomed, androgynous and pixy-pretty Dylan. Haynes agreed and told me he cast Blanchett to play Dylan during that period in his life. I was amazed at Haynes decision and she's amazing as Dylan or "Jude."

Haynes brillance, aside from daring-do, is in breaking through and looking at style conventions, like his 2002 drama FAR FROM HEAVEN did with cinema of the 1950s. With I'M NOT THERE, Haynes looks at film in the 1960s, media stardom, press mediated pop-music, and how Dylan deconstructed his own iconic image in the popular culture. Paying homage to Fellini's 8 1/2 and grainy balck and white rock docs such as the famed 1967 D.A. Pennebacker film DON'T LOOK BACK, Haynes dazzles again with his artful direction of film frame and his actors to capture the significant feeling of time. I'M NOT THERE is especially thrilling and filled with pregnant moments and poignant dialogue you'll recognize if you are a Dylan fan and know the entire Dylan canon of poetry and song.

I'M NOT THERE plays tonight in a special preview screening at the Walker Art Center with producer Christine Vachon will introduce the film and answer questions from the audience. The film will open in theaters on November 21st at Landmark Lagoon.

Walker Art Center: I'M NOT THERE

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