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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