Friday, December 14th, 2007
I'm Not There
Earlier this week I finally caught a screening of the much-discussed Todd Haynes tribute to Bob Dylan, I’m Not There and, if you’re looking for the condensed review, I really liked it. But I appreciate that it’s not nearly a film for everyone, Dylan fan or no, and that some might leave the theatre with varying degees of confusion or disappointment even though the fact that the film features six actors, of different genders and ethnicities, portraying the main character should be a tip-off that it’s not exactly a conventional film.
But that said, it’s not excessively cryptic or impenetrable. It simply follows six parallel yet interwoven storylines portraying Dylan surrogates – he’s never named – at different points of his career with varying degrees of allegory but all with relatively straightforward narratives. And that’s where Haynes sets his traps – it’s easy to start thinking that he’s intending to tell a story (or six) with a conventional arc and that there’ll be some sort of resolution, either individually or collectively, and that’s not his intention. These threads aren’t meant to be followed to a destination – if you’re looking for a proper story or to find out what happens next, you’re in the wrong place. This isn’t a biography told in a creative manner, instead it’s an impressionistic romp that celebrates the spirit of Dylan, the mythic aura that trades in fact as much as fiction, and this Haynes captures well. He concentrates on capturing Dylan’s essence – the creativity, the playfulness, the cantankerousness, the inscrutability – and the life is secondary.
While much of the attention has been focused on Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Dylan in his post-Newport years – and don’t get me wrong, she’s great – I think the strongest performance comes from Christian Bale as the Greenwich-era Jack Rollins. His screen time is limited, relative to Blanchett or Heath Ledger, but when he’s in the scene, he’s astonishing in his ability to embody Dylan without impersonating him. AND he’s Batman.
This is a film that will probably reward multiple viewings. I’m nowhere near a Dylan scholar but it was fun playing spot the reference – visual recreations, thinly veiled representations of real-life figures – and there’s surely a dozen I missed for every one that I got. I think the key is to go in without an expectation of what you’re going to get, because whatever that is you’re probably wrong. It’s like a Dylan lyric on celluloid – no one knows for sure what it means, maybe not even the author, but that doesn’t mean it’s not brilliant. In fact, that’s probably exactly why it is.
Harp talks to Todd Haynes about making the film and also reveals how the one Dylan recording that appears on the soundtrack, the title track whose masters were long thought lost, was uncovered in an unlikely place.
‘Tis the season… for interviewing Carl Newman of The New Pornographers, apparently. The Independent, Nerve and The Village Voice all have chats with the ginger popsmith (second two links via Idolator). And if that’s not enough Pornographic insight for you, he’s also on the cover of the latest Big Takeover.
Last year, the Drake Hotel made the last week of the year more than just a post-Christmas hangover with their “What’s In The Box?” series of shows running from December 26 through the 30th and this year, they’re doing it again. For five nights, they’re featuring five acts in the Underground for five bucks and are topping that off with a few choice performances upstairs in the Lounge as well. It’s a more electronic-heavy lineup than last year but still enough to get me out of the house and down Parkdale way for a couple nights at least. The full list is as follows:
December 26th – Skratch Bastid, Ghislain Poirier (live set), Vitamins For You and My Dad Vs Yours
December 27th – The Ghost Is Dancing, Jetplanes Of Abraham, Hexes And Ohs, Five Blank Pages and Krief
December 28th – Thunderheist, Jokers Of The Scene, Bonjay, Syntonics, Opopo PLUS Jenn Grant in the Lounge.
December 29th – A Place To Bury Strangers, Fjord Rowboat, The Two Koreas, Dundas and Love, Anna PLUS Peter Elkas in the Lounge
December 30th – Pheek, Adam Marshall, Coordinates, J Hunsberger and JAP_
Pitchfork solicits year-end lists from various artists.