If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm Not There

Yesterday afternoon I bought and watched the DVD fantasy "biopic" of Bob Dylan I'm Not There. The title comes from one of Dylan's songs in his Basement Tape series, which was not released until this soundtrack.

The film is not a straight on biographical film of Dylan. I thought I was watching a Federico Fellini take on Dylan. Better yet, it seemed to be a look at Bob Dylan's life through in the style of his surrealistic lyrics. The film takes a dream-like look at Dylan through various actors using fictitious names and playing different aspects of his life and music.

Marcus Carl Franklin plays an 11-year-old, African-American boy named Woody hopping a train with a guitar case that reads "This Machine Kills Facists," which the legendary fold singer Woody Guthrie sported on his guitar. This character reflects Dylan's early passion for Woody Guthrie.

Ben Whishaw plays Arthur Rimbaud, after the 19th century poet, who represents the Dylan who gave odd and angular answers to reporters during his interviews in the 60's.

Christian Bale plays Jack Rollins, a Dylan-like character, who struggles with an identity as a protest singer and eventually becomes a born-again pastor, reflecting Dylan's own "conversion" to evangelical Christianity.

Heath Ledger plays Robbie Clark, an actor who played a role as Jack Robbins, but whose own life reflects Dylan's early Greenwich Village relationships.

Cate Blanchett, who received an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Jude Quinn, reflects the 60's Dylan who went electric, alienated his folk fans, and was a fan and friend of Allen Ginsberg. In one scene Jude and Allen Ginsberg yell at an image of Jesus on the cross, "Why don't you do your early stuff?," in reference to Dylan's folk fans when he went electric.

Richard Gere plays the outlaw Billy the Kid in an old Western scenario that reflects Dylan's real life appearance in a film on Billy the Kid, his outsider lifestyle, and his surreal song lyrics.

It takes some time to adjust to the strange interweaving of these various symbolic representations of Dylan's life and music, but in the end the film portrays the many personaes, phases, musical styles, and life experiences of Bob Dylan in a most appropriate and artistically creative way.

To see a trailer of the film, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZGseissqX8

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