Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm Not There forces Breihan to throw his hands in the air. Although he's certainly right that in Haynes' film the music enforces the Dylan mythos instead of being an end in itself, I'm not sure you can dismiss Dylan's own propensity for allying himself with history – for wanting to merge with history. I'm Not There acknowledges, implicitly, that "Bob Dylan" is an empty cavern. That's why five of the film's six secret sharers balk at becoming what his critics and admirers want – and why most of his great work (especially his most recent work) attains the glazed anonymity of those blues idioms he reveres. The performance of Marcus Carl Franklin as the round-faced folkie uncorks a number of ironies, however. This version of Dylan is so full of brio – so devoted to becoming part of a folk history he already understands better than men much older and more proficient – that there's no way we can accept his anonymity. I can think of no other reason why the audience endures the longeurs of the Richard Gere scenes than Haynes' wanting to show how aesthetic ambition eventually collapses into a need to vanish (the pine trees in the forest where the Gere character lives project more charisma).

I've admitted many times that I rarely listen to "classic" Dylan (for old time's sake I threw on Bringing It All Back Home while showering this morning, my first real listen in seven years, I think. I've nothing to say except I'd forgotten the fragility of "She Belongs To Me," at once an incomplete summation and exactly as long as it needs to be). But often I'll thrown on minor Dylan like New Morning, Planet Waves, or my beloved Empire Burlesque, the latter of which exerts an undying fascination. I love how the intimations of apocalypse, references to Madame Butterfly and the Last Supper, and those herky-jerkily enunciated attempts at witticisms are so at odds with Arthur Baker's trendy production; while Dylan's reminding people that a vast culture exists in which high and low intermingle, Baker's fretting about how to turn "Tight Connection To My Heart (Has Anyone Seen My Love?)" into a dance chart top ten like his remix of Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark." I wish Todd Haynes had cast Rupert Everett or somebody as the Disco Dylan, sporting a silver sports jacket, wailing the Breakout-era Pointer Sisters number "When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky" as a reminder that any movie examining an artist's mythos should look at its grisliest aspects (to be fair, Haynes shoots Christian Bale, clad in polyester, re-enacting Born Again Dylan in a pretty good rendition of Saved's "Pressing On"). Would that Haynes have written a scene with Antonio Banderas playing the mustachioed Dylan of "Love & Theft."

3 comments:

Thomas said...

RE: Everett as '80s Dylan, and Banderas as L&T Dylan: stop it, you're making me wet.

Apa said...

I want to see this movie. And as much as you hate "theory," it sounds like Todd Haynes is deconstructing the idea of biography. The idea of being able to capture any person's entire life (especially someone as eccletic as Dylan) is absurd. No matter how accurate, detailed, and true you are to the story/life, it is still just a story. It is a totalizing exercise in which the director or biographer try to pass off two hours (or 800 pages) as the whole of a person's life.

While I haven't seen the movie-- the review sounds like Haynes is well aware of this problem and is playing with the idea of biography.

Alfred Soto said...

He is playing with genre. Many times in his career he's been a better semiotician than director, which is why he's a commanding interviewee.