In I'm Not There, director Todd Haynes ( Far From Heaven ) executes a fascinating fictional riff on the many faces of Bob Dylan. There are so many dazzling ideas at work here that they ricochet off one another, leaving a viewer dazed. As in Martin Scorsese's intensely entertaining Dylan documentary No Direction Home, Haynes operates from the notion that as an artist Dylan is a chameleon with many personas—folk singer, rock ’n’ roller, born-again Christian. He suggests that the musician is less a product of his time than a man who cunningly shaped an era. But since nobody can pin him down, Dylan escapes being an icon who's pigeonholed by adoring fans. As the title of a rare, bootleg Dylan song tells us, “ I'm Not There.”
Haynes has a number of actors play different facsimiles of Dylan from different periods of his career—Marcus Carl Franklin as a young black singer called Woody Guthrie sings Dylan songs; Christian Bale plays the protest singer; Cate Blanchett, in a stunning shape-shifting star turn, does Dylan in his electric rock period; least successfully, Heath Ledger tries to capture Dylan's brief period of domesticity; and Richard Gere represents Dylan's recent return to the world after a period of self-imposed exile. Haynes daringly, but not always successfully, renders all these scenes in various styles ranging from mock documentary to Fellini and Godard.
I'm Not There begins with Dylan's famous motorcycle accident in 1966 and from there performs an incisive autopsy on his life while thrusting back and forth in time. At times, the rhythms are uneven, especially in the more literal scenes with Ledger, but overall Haynes just lets his kaleidoscopic visual imagination dictate the narrative flow. Even though Dylan is but a mere phantom running through the story, in I'm Not There, he's all there.
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Cast: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Marcus
Carl Franklin and Charlotte Gainsbourg
Director: Todd Haynes and Oren Moverman
Producers: James D. Stern, John Sloss, John Goldwyn and Christine Vachon
Rating: R for language, some sexuality and nudity
Running time: 135 min.
Release date: November 21, 2007 NY