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Weaving and bobbing its way through a narrative, I'm Not There casts actors of various age, sex, and race as surrogate Dylans, and as unconventional as it is this device never feels contrived or pretentious. Marcus Carl Franklin, a young African American actor, plays the hobo Dylan posing as Woodie Guthrie, Christian Bale tackles the Greenwich Village-era Dylan, Heath Ledger creates a self-absorbed movie star Dylan, Richard Gere a Billy the Kid-style woodsman Dylan, and Cate Blanchett the electric guitar-wielding Dylan.
And why not? After all, the real Dylan wasn't shy about creating a persona for himself or inserting his own story into folk and pop music mythology. The film culls real-life episodes and interactions from Dylan's personal history and inserts them into Haynes' imaginative world of parallel Dylans existing simultaneously in a filmic universe of metaphor and parable. Verbal sparring with reporters, the notorious crowd reaction to his use of an electric guitar at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, the infamous motorcycle accident - in Haynes' version these events exist in a surrogate reality, manipulated without straying too far from the truth. Each storyline is given a different film stock - some in black and white, some in color - but each noticeably and strikingly different from the rest. The performances of Ledger and Blanchett are especially fine, but the soundtrack cannot be ignored either. Dylan's classics are performed in their original forms as well as via interpretations by the likes of Stephen Malkmus, Cat Power, and Sonic Youth.
The two-disc Collector's Edition of I'm Not There is packed with bonus material, including a director's commentary by Haynes, deleted scenes, on-screen song lyrics, outtakes, auditions, and a "Dylanography." One of the better takes on Dylan's storied career, and easily one of the best films of last year, just became one of the better DVD releases of 2008.
TRAILER: www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZGseissqX8 SEE ALSO: www.imnotthere-movie.com
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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