Friday, June 13, 2008

Video Pick: I'M NOT THERE

In keeping with the Rendition review I posted for Vigilante, I am offering up what will hopefully become a weekly Video Pick post. I am starting with Todd Haynes' brilliant I'm Not There, a film I just received as a Father's Day gift, and a film that should be seen by everyone. Period. For more words on I'm Not There, check out my post on the best films of 2007...

I'm Not There is stunning, brilliant, and visionary. Todd Haynes--in far and away the best film of his career--has taken a risky high concept and transformed it into a vibrant, radiating piece of filmmaking.

I don't know a whole lot about Bob Dylan, nor is Dylan one of my favorite musicians by any stretch. But this is the definitive Dylan film of our time, and it is not one that is helped by any great knowledge of Dylan or his life. Whether you love Bob Dylan, hate him, or are indifferent, it doesn't matter. If you love FILM, then you must see I'm Not There. It is a perfect example of the ways this wonderful art form can be stretched, twisted, and turned on its ear.

Haynes' central conceit is to use six different actors to play Bob Dylan. Each tackles a different segment of Dylan's personality, and none are actually named Bob Dylan at all. In fact, Richard Gere plays Billy the Kid. If it all sounds fucked up, it is...brilliantly so.

If there has ever been an unknowable public figure, it's Bob Dylan. Haynes' stroke of brilliance is realizing that there is no definitive way to tell the story of Dylan's life, and so he makes a film in the spirit of Dylan--fragmented, brash, deliberately confusing, and fully aware that it is ten steps ahead of everyone in the screening room.

There is no way to fully understand the film's genius without experiencing it. The film makes very little sense, moves with a circular, interconnected logic that you have to work to piece together, and flows about as free as a Dylan song verse. With I'm Not There, Haynes has created and perfected a sort of 'stream of consciousness' cinema that uses pulsating energy and a rainbow of cinematic techniques to communicate what no straight narrative ever could.

Bob Dylan was and is one of the most confounding and contradictory pop culture icons of our time. No one has ever known him, and perhaps no one ever will. I'm Not There will not help anyone get to know Dylan. But it will help one *understand* the enigma a great deal more than expected.

This film is sheer brilliance of the highest order.

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