I'm Not There

I didn't get the review assignment for I'm Not There. I did, however, sneak into the press screening, because I simply could not wait until March 13th. I am very glad I went, and not so jealous any more of the guy who has to review it.

Let me start by saying I think this is a brilliant, amazing film. With an emphasis on I think. I know for sure that I loved many of the parts, and that most fragments of the film are, yes, amazing and brilliant. I'm still debating whether they add up to an amazing hole, and I'm increasinly leaning towards.... absolutely.

I told myself this post came third because I wanted it to stay on top, but it was also in great part because I have no idea where to start. I'm not even going to try to describe the movie. It's too much like a dream: in the moment it makes perfect sense, and probably on some level it does, but the fragments, upon waking, seem too disjointed to ever have flowed smoothly together. Yet they do. The film goes from black and white to color, from documentary-like footage to lush Malick-esque nature shots, from sequences closely based on things that really happened to totally fantastical stories. But it never feels jarring, and magically, the edges between the different stories and actors blur. The personas played by Heath Ledger (the least interesting one, unfortunately) and Christian Bale (humorlessness, but as pointed out on filmspotting, appropriately so) even inhabit the same world.

Cate Blanchett has received unanimous praise, and she deserves it, but there are many more performances worth praising. Marcus Carl Franklin makes the wonderfully intricate sentences he's given come out smoothly and naturally: he's both the little boy inside Bob Dylan and believable as a grown man in a boy's body. Wishaw is great as the sort-of second narrator, Arthur Rimbaud, showing how annoying yet fascinating Dylan must've been as a seventeen or eighteen year old, smarter than his peers and knowing it too well. And last but not least, I think it's worth singling out Michelle Williams - who I didn't even know was in the movie. She's Coco Rivington, a clear Edie Sedgwick socialite, and it's not even exaggerating that much to call her performance a revelation.

I'm getting long-winded here, and honestly, I still don't know exactly what it is I want to say, nor what the film has to say. One thing is for sure: do not go see it expecting more insight into Bob Dylan. But you can go see it expecting a wonderful, surprising, beautiful, mesmerizing, etc. work of art, experimental but not difficult or impenetrable. A film that stays with you even if you see two other movies after it the same day, and a film I can't wait to revisit in March.

How does it feel? It feels like it might be my favorite film of 2007.

Also: check out #187 of FilmSpotting. It made me finally accept Matty (I had some hurt feelings after Sam left), and it has a great interview with Todd Haynes. I couldn't have had better listening material on my way home.

1 comment:

cjKennedy said...

The best I could muster for this remarkable film was a sort of mini-review.

I just don't know how to approach it. I can't intellectualize it and articulate how it made me feel.

It was like watching chaos. At every turn, it felt like the movie was about to spiral out of control into a big, glorious, pretentious mess, but it never ever lost me. There was always a thread to follow, yet the thread always remained elusive and I could never get a grip on it.

I think in the end, one of the things I admire about it most was that it's so obviously a labor of love. There were no shortcuts taken, the audience is never pandered to, it's never trying to be commercial. It's a work of art.

Todd Haynes introduced the screening I saw and he was so happy with it and proud of it. He was born in LA and his whole family was there including his grandmother and he seemed very thrilled to be showing his baby to them. That made the whole thing special.

I'm not sure where this one will end up in my theoretical Top 10 of 2007, I keep getting blown away by movies. Just when I think the year can't get any better, something surprises me. And now they're all abuzz over Sweeney Todd, so we'll see.