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Author Topic: "I'm Not There
Gerard S. Cohen
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 975
From: Forest Hills, NY, USA
Registered: Sep 2001

 - posted 12-30-2007 04:13 PM      Profile for Gerard S. Cohen   Email Gerard S. Cohen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This film by Todd Haynes had me wondering why he bothered making it. I'm a Bob Dylan fan, and have been collecting his albums since the 1960's, first on vinyl and now on CD and DVD.
I have four of his albums in my car's stereo player. So I hoped to learn sonmethings I didn't know about the poet, songwriter and singer. Instead, though I enjoyed the musical track, I found a re-hashing of the cliches about Dylan, and some fanciful stories imagined by the director and his crew.

For example, you hardly see and hear Bob Dylan's voice and image together. Cate Blanchette looks exactly like young Dyan in the '60s, as she seems to be lip-synching to Dylan's voice. Bob's first uses of electric guitar and rock band support, eliciting a few boos at Newport and London, are done to death here. Pete Seeger's alleged comment that if he had an ax he would have cut the cable, is enacted by his film counterpart actually grabbing the firebox ax and waving it in the air as
several others try to restrain him.

Dylan's travel from Hibbing to New York to pay homage to Woodie Guthrie, an early influence, is played by a small black child with a guitar. Cute, and revealing Bob's love of Dust-Bowl folk music, but nothing new here.

Closer to the historical Dylan is the story of Jack Rollins,
who rises to fame , but why not call him Dylan and make it biographical? Then there's the Dylan-like poet who has a love affair with a French artiste. And the sixth and final story of a Billy-the-Kid character with a Ralph Lauren Western locale, filmed in a brownish sepia. Perhaps it was meant to show another aspect of Bob Dylan's ever-changing persona, but there are some unchanging artistic aspects of Dylan the poet and troubador that
seem trivialized here.

While the film shows Joan Baez' help and influence on Bob Dylan's life, and his brief conversion to Born-Again Christianity, I feel the earlier and more durable influence of
Judiasm was entirely lacking. The briefest perusal of websites such as www.TangledUpinJews reveals a rabii in the family, his study with the Lubovicher Hasidim, his Bar Mitzva, studies in Hebrew Mysticism, and most importantly--the influence on his activist songs of the Old Testament prophets. (It was his prophetic voice that first floored me on his first three albums.)
Instead, the single (and unspoken) reference in the film was the snide reference to Dylan's changing his name, by a British critic. This critic is a composit character who becomes more menacing in the film, and suggests that part of the critical hostility in London may have been a result of anti-semitism.

I hoped to uncover the truth of Dylan's motorcycle smashup,
which seems to have had a profound affect on his life and work.
Instead there is a clumsy foreshadowing shot of the Dylan character bumping into a barn wall at his first attempt to rent a cycle, and the (later) unexplained event of hitting a tree.
How much was suicidal? A result of alcohol or drugs? Or incompetence as a biker?
The real Bob Dylan doesn't sing on this film until the very end, and the recent songs of his mature years are heard only on the interminable end credits.

I learned more from Martin Scorcese's documentary, shown on PBS, and from present-day Dylan's comments than from this film.
After returning home, I viewed the documentary footage of the Newport Festival from 1963, '64, and '65, which proved mych more satisfying, with the real Dylan (born Robert Zimmerman)the real Joan Baez and the real Pete Seeger. I picked up the phone and ordered the Newport DVD, and my family and I enjoyed repeat performances at home.

Viewed on Black Friday at the Kew Gardens Cinema, New York

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