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I'm Not There (CE)
DVD disk
May 14, 2008 By: Mathew Plale
I'm Not There (CE) order
Director:
Todd Haynes

Actors:
Cate Blanchett
Heath Ledger
Christian Bale

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The life and times of singer/songwriter Bob Dylan is embodied by several characters in many eras, with an ensemble cast including Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, and Christian Bale.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Generally, an ensemble cast interacts, drifting and rushing into each others lives even for just a glance. In Im Not There, Todd Haynes and co-writer Oren Moverman, using six (maybe seven) characters that never meet but always collaborate, create about as personal of a portrait of Bob Dylan one can get without uttering the name Bob Dylan.

The streets of Im Not There (which takes its title from a previously-unreleased outtake from 1975s The Basement Tapes) are paved and crossed by a plethora of characters, all whom with their own progressions, recessions, and arcs: Woodie Guthrie (Marcus Carl Franklin), who parades his fascist-killing geetar aboard boxcars; Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Whishaw), the it aint me, babe poet incessantly hassled by reporters; Jack/Pastor John (Christian Bale), born again after years as a Phil Ochs-like folkster; Robbie Clark (Heath Ledger, in his last role before his death), a part-time husband and full-time movie star; Jude Quinn (Oscar nominee Cate Blanchett), a manic-haired fame-hater drowning in a Fellini-esque world of Warhol; and Billy the Kid (Richard Gere), an outlaw living in the hills.

The filman unavoidable case of schizophrenia and contradictionshifts style and film stock as often as it does characters: color melds with black and white, 35mm with 16mm, and documentary with western. But even through the flood of mutations and layers, Haynes never once attempts the impossible: to serve revelations of Robert Allen Zimmermanbut at least the director knows its impossible.

All of the events and parallels in Im Not There areto Dylan aficionados, at leastspare parts: looks are mimicked (Jude gets closest), dialogue is lifted directly from lyrics and interviews (Arthurs segment is near-identical to mid-60s footage), tributes are attended to (Woodie, despite being a black 11-year-old is the personified admiration for the folk musician), and timelines are accurate (Jack/John presents Dylans three-album gospel transformation).

But this isnt to suggest we cant dig into the story and characters: Robbie, while filming a biopic on Jack, is weighted with pressure, a Dylan shadowed by another Dylan, all while Blood on the Tracks is being mentally penned. And in the most criticized (though deepest) portion, Billy the Kid isnt so much a send-up of Sam Peckinpahs Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (which Dylan appeared, though as neither Billy or Garrett) as it is an imagining of Dylans desired seclusion hes never quite experienced.

These six (or seven) personas aside, starlovers, buffs, and the bored will make time to pick out the small-role notables: Joan Baez, Edie Sedgwick, and Sara Dylan-inspired characters (Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Charlotte Gainsbourg), Allen Ginsberg (David Cross), the Beatles (who immediately get Dylan high in a Richard Lester-styled moment), and Brian Jones (from then-covers band the Rolling Stones) all turn up for glimpses-and-scenes-at-a-time.

Their role in the life (lives?) of Dylan are easy. The hard part to cope with for fans like myself is that well never really know who Bob Dylan is, was, or will be. Weve grown to accept it, and are assigned the duty of warning those who downright loathe the nasally vocals and standoffish persona of Dylan. Im Not There is not a film for everyonebut is it really even for any of us?
THE EXTRAS
Disc One:

Audio Commentary by Director/Co-Writer Todd Haynes: Haynes is non-stop in this commentary, offering valuable knowledge on Dylans history, the storys origins, inspirations, character analysis, and much, much more. A few bits are repeated on Disc Two, but not nearly enough to skip this must-listen track.

On-Screen Song Lyrics, a Song Selection, and Sneak Peeks round out Disc One.

Disc Two:

Audition Tapes (4:35): Marcus Carl Franklins (Woodie Guthrie) and Ben Winshaw (Arthur Rimbaud)s are included, intercut with corresponding footage from the film.

Deleted Scenes (2:08): There are two here: Silver Club Bathroom, which puts us back into the Factory-esque atmosphere and Mrs. Baker, an extra scene with Billy the Kid.

Alternate/Extended Scenes (19:20): All four are for the songs Tombstone Blues, Hattie Carroll, Goin to Acapulco, and Pressing On.

Outtakes (4:13) offers a goofy montage of line flubs, animal antics, Todd Haynes, and more.

A Tribute to Heath Ledger (3:15) is a heart-felt video of the late actor on set, backdropped with Dylans Tomorrow is a Long Time.

The Red Carpet Premiere (2:41) gathers Todd Haynes and his cast at the November 13, 2007 premiere in New York City.

Making the Soundtrack (21:03): Music producers John Henry, Lee Ranaldo (of Sonic Youth), director Todd Haynes, actor Marcus Carl Franklin, and others give an inside look at the evolution of the soundtrack. Along with other topics, the men provide insight on the talent involved, updating/choosing the songs, and the rare track Im Not There, which hadnt been released until last year.

A Conversation with Todd Haynes (42:31): More of a series of conversations, the director sits down to discuss his film, devoting much of the time to dissecting each character. Despite the numerous press junkets covering the same topics (though theres no overlapping in the featurette), Haynes is enthusiastic throughout, making the 40+ minutes breeze by.

Finally, the Dylanography hosts an interesting NY Times Magazine write-up titled This is Not a Bob Dylan Movie, Todd Haynes one-page letter to Dylan proposing the idea of Im Not There (which subsequently led to the film), Discography, Filmography, Bibliography, the Filmmakers Notebook (with notes and storyboards), and Still Galleries.

Rounding out Disc Two is a Trailer Gallery, with two theatricals and several unreleased Subterranean Homesick Blues-inspired trailers.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
I'm Not There, one of the best films of 2007, is treated to an absolutely magnificent Two-Disc Collector's Edition, with an abundance of features and information to keep an Dylan fan occupied for hours on end. Those who hate Dylan? Rent Dreamgirls, I guess.
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