there’s a degree to which there could be no other title for a bob dylan biopic than ‘i’m not there’, todd haynes’ never less than intriguing take on the life of the man who either represents dedication to hiding greater than any other artist, or reveals all there is to know in his music.
it’s a very smart idea to have six actors play characters inspired by the dylan myth; something feels entirely right about having a young black kid, a woman, and richard gere all stand in for different aspects/eras/stories from his life. the film’s stunning design – image and sound – conceal a deceptively simple core: nobody knows the real dylan, so maybe there’s no real dylan there at all, or, more likely, maybe he is everything we want him to be.
i found myself checking in and out of the movie – i felt it could do with a little tightening, but then again, perhaps its looseness is the point – though it’s undeniably thrilling in places. when the ‘real’ bob shows up in the last moments of the film, in archive footage playing his harmonica, i had the strangest experience: i’ve never been that interested in bob dylan as a person, though of course some of the music is unrepeatably marvellous. but after a couple of hours of mining the potential pasts of this keystone cultural figure, seeing his ‘real’ face, hearing his ‘real’ music was an emotional grace note to compare with the films that make us all cry.