More on I’m Not There

This film remains in my head for the second, or maybe third, straight day.

And hell, as long as I am writing this blog for myself, I might as well be self-indulgent. It’s the Dylanesque thing to do.

Despite my first reaction to the Richard Gere sequence on my first viewing, I have become convinced that if Ledger’s character is the heart of the movie, Gere is the soul, while Blanchett is the smooth surface, who serves up misdirection. She’s the joker in the deck.

It’s the Gere sequence that drew the greatest amount of derision from critics. Salon‘s terrific writer Stephanie Zacharek admitted to feeling sleepy every time she heard wagon wheels. She wanted to get back to Blanchett, the live-wire 1966 Dylan.  And I am sure many viewers agreed with her.

Part of the reason for my change of heart involves a greater exploration of the source material. The first time around, I spotted the direct references to Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the Sam Peckinpah movie in which Dylan acted in a supported role. But as it dawned on me (with some helpful reading) that this was also the Dylan after his mysterious motorcycle accident, the Dylan who holed up in upstate New York with the Band, who produced “The Basement Tapes” and “John Wesley Harding.” This was the Dylan who retreated from society and embraced the Cowboy Fantasy.

Five years ago, I did the same thing, retreating out to the Four Corners, near Durango, Colorado. I too embraced the fantasy that the West could heal. I was wrong.

The clincher, however, is the absolute blood-chilling funeral scene featuring a dead teenage girl dressed as a china doll, as the mournful “Goin’ to Acapulco” is sung by Jim James of My Morning Jacket. This Louisville band is the modern equivalent of the Band, its music serving as a survey of the landscape of the South. There was something so pronounced, so affecting by that scene that I haven’t been able to get that song or that moment out of my head. It’s David Lynch by way of Federico Fellini, with some Peckinpah left over.

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Man of Action, Man in Black

Fascinating piece in Sunday’s Washington Post by the talented film critic Stephen Hunter, in which he views John McCain and Barack Obama through the lens of cinema archetypes.

McCain, Hunter writes, comes from a line of movie tough-guys, the John Waynes, the Robert Mitchums. He’s the wisecracking pilot straight from those black-and-white films on TCM, to whom Hunter gives props for bagging a beautiful, rich second wife. (“Nobody will write this anywhere except me here, but we guys, you know what: We admire another guy for making a great catch.” Hunter writes)

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Is John McCain a two-fisted man of action like the legendary Duke?

McCain, Hunter also says, would be the only president in recent times who has actually killed someone, a point not often mentioned when his biography is detailed. The question, Hunter writes, is whether McCain, like John Wayne, always considers settling a matter with violence first. (Perhaps McCain should put “The Quiet Man” at the top of his Netflix queue.)

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BP/DVD Review: I’m Not There

When was the last time you watched a film again immediately? Last night, I watched Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There and found it absorbing and somewhat perplexing, but my recollection was that it dragged on too long and took a left turn two-thirds through with Richard Gere that damaged the overall arc of the story.

But it nagged at me all day Sunday. So I slid the DVD in and watched it again. Maybe it was the tequila Saturday night, but the second time around, the film revealed more to me than before. And I think I began to understand its undeniable brilliance.

The inventive premise in this Bob Dylan biopic is that Dylan, always a chameleon, could not be played by one actor. So Haynes employed six, including, most famously, Cate Blanchett, playing the 1966-era Dylan at the height of his fame. None of the characters are actually named “Bob Dylan.” (As has been noted often, even Bob Dylan wasn’t named that. Robert Zimmerman took the name from Dylan Thomas.)

I’m not a Dylanologist–I have no more than a passing familiarity with his classic albums from the 60s, although I’m a big believer in his later work, including “Blood on the Tracks” and “Time Out of Mind.” But even so, I could recognize how Haynes was attempting a high-wire act of fusing the ambiguity and inscrutable nature of Dylan’s lyrics with his persona.

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