Let me start with a warning: If you're going to watch I'm not there, Tod Haynes' take on the mythical American singer-poet Bob Dylan, please put any conventional notions of biopic out of your head.
The film takes its name from a 1967 Dylan song, I'm Not There, which did not officially release until its appearance on the film's soundtrack.? It is inspired by the music and life of Bob Dylan.? And yet, not once do we hear Dylan's name in the film.? Neither do we get a chronological laundry list of this happened and then that happened.?Instead Haynes has six actors play Dylan at key periods of his life from the late 50s to the early 80s.? And even these are not literal representations.?
They are seemingly disconnected tracks, which collide and splice into each other and evoke the towering talent, spirit and endless contradictions of being Bob Dylan.
I'm Not There is the work of a prodigious and dazzling imagination.? Each frame is packed with passion. Of course there are some tracks that work better than others.?
Cate Blanchett, mumbling under a frizzy wig and shades, is absolute genius as Dylan.? The late Heath Ledger plays an actor whose collapsed marriage to an artist, achingly?alludes to the dissolution of Dylan's first marriage.??There is a palpable sense of loss here.?
But Richard Gere's track, fittingly set in a backwater town called Riddle, is exhaustingly vague.? I'm Not There is by turns compelling, perplexing, intriguing and frustrating.? It requires patience. Being familiar with Dylan's music and milestones will make the film more accessible but even if you are not a Dylan fan, I recommend that you see it.? Only to admire Haynes's ambition and his limitless imagination.? I'm Not There is a cut above.