Posted at 11:35 AM on November 21, 2007
by Euan Kerr
Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan 'bio-pic' will bug the heck out of some people, but intrigue many, many, more. I am in the latter camp. In fact I can see myself seeing it several times.
Inspired by a cross country road-trip during which Haynes listened to Dylan and became intrigued by Mr Zimmerman's talent for re-invention, the movie uses six different actors to play the Dylan character - and none of them are named Bob.
Haynes mixes the stories of "Woody" (the teenage singer portrayed by Marcus Carl Franklin as hopping trains and mixing it up with the people he meets on his travels across the country) with "Jude" (Cate Blanchett as the controversial singer at the center of a media blitz in London.) He adds "Robbie" (with Heath Ledger as a film star with a marriage on the rocks,) "Jack" (Christian Bale as a jaded folkie on the road to evangelical conversion,) "Arthur" (Ben Wishaw as a poet struggling to define himself and the world,) and "Billy" (Richard Gere as a character in a 'hippie western' where an ancient Pat Garrett rules over a surreal town filled with decrepits and circus animals.)
Sometimes the stories complement each other, sometimes they crash together in interesting ways.
Like Dylan's work everything is open to interpretation and that's what makes this film both fun and frustrating. I have heard two interpretations of the scene where Blanchett's Jude elicits rage when he plays electric at a folk festival. A character based on Pete Seeger tried to cut the power cable with an axe. One friend of mine, who is a huge Dylan and Pete Seeger fan saw it as cartoonish. However in the Pioneer Press Chris Hewitt says this is the scene which was key to his understanding of the film.
And of course, they are both right.
Also, having just finished Dylan's "Chronicles Vol. 1" and watched D.A. Pennebaker's "Don't look Back" it's fascinating to see how Haynes reproduces and sometimes re-interprets some of that material to fold into his film.
Before the recent screening at the Walker Art Center "I'm Not There" producer Christine Vachon said she worries that sometimes a movie can get such hype that, as she put it "what you hear is more complicated than the movie." She recommends just letting the film wash over you.
While you hear comments like that all the time from film makers, in this case she has a point.