Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm Not There, or How Sunday Really Turned Out


Well, it started out as an evening that I was supposed to spend with a girlfriend. We were going to grab some chickfood on Kings Highway in Brooklyn and then go and see Juno. And of course, she canceled on me.

Why is it that these days, whenever I make plans with someone, there is about a 70-30% possibility that he/she will cancel?

Sigh.

So as I was settling in for an exciting evening of throwing out papers and cleaning out boxes, my friend Shmuel called me. He and his boyfriend were going to see the Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There in the Village and would I want to come along? Ok, why not. I'm actually a huge Dylan fan. I love "Blood on the Tracks."

Sidestep: in 1999, I went to see Bob Dylan and Paul Simon play at Madison Square Garden. It was the only time I had ever heard Dylan live. I was a little curious as to how that peculiar combination would work out musically. Both men were poets. Both were musical products of the sixties and seventies. Both were hyper-talented. Both were anomalies of popular music, for very different reasons. I expected to hear Dylan twanging out: "Hello darkness, my old friennnnnd." But I discovered that Dylan can be conventionally melodic when he wants to...that signature twangy quality to his voice is something he can turn on and off. The concert was beautiful; two mega-artists paying tribute to each other without being phonies, without any hype. Hearing Dylan sing "Sound of Silence" with Simon and Simon belting out "Like a Rolling Stone" with his heart falling out of his voice was incredible. I've been to a ton of concerts; this one was memorable.

So back to the movie. I'm Not There is weird as hell. It's not a conventional movie with a storyline. Six different actors, including a woman and a small black child, play Bob Dylan. Ok. Well, I guess they play "aspects" of Bob Dylan: Bob Dylan the superstar, Bob Dylan the rebel, Bob Dylan the outlaw, Bob Dylan the husband and father, Bob Dylan the druggie, Bob Dylan the scared child, etc.. It was hard to follow all the stories and all the characters...the movie kept weaving around timelines too. One minute it was the late 1800's in the Wild West, and the next minute it was 1970s London. After a while, I gave up and just tried to enjoy the movie in the moment; that worked much better.

Cate Blanchett gave an INCREDIBLE performance as the dark, drugged-out Dylan of the seventies, the character named Jude Quinn. She nailed his mannerisms to a tee. It was very strange watching a woman play such a masculine role, but she was believable and good. She definitely took some artistic license with her interpretation of Dylan. I watched some of the YouTube clips of the real Dylan living the scenes that the film portrayed (here's one, if you're curious), and the real Dylan wasn't nearly as angry and belligerent as Jude Quinn. The real Dylan had a sense of humor, and was earnest without being pissed-off. It seemed to me like the real Dylan thought most things were funny. Jude Quinn was always enraged. But, even with her liberal interpretation of Dylan's attitude, Blanchett stole the show.

It was strange seeing Heath Ledger on the screen, after hearing about his death this week. The Richard Gere role was, well, confusing, as was the Marcus Franklin role.

It was a good film. Actually, now I'm inspired to read Dylan's autobiography, Chronicles Vol. 1. When I compared notes with Shmu and his bf, it seemed that the more we were able to connect the movie to what we knew about Dylan, the more we could enjoy it. We all felt that as soon as we stopped expecting it to act like a conventional film, we were able to understand it more. Here's the trailer, btw. And, just as a treat, here's a 1964 video of Dylan playing "Mr. Tambourine Man" that I really like. I've already downloaded it to my Ipod. Gotta love YouTube. It has changed our access to everything.

1 comment:

Lubab No More said...

Speaking of Bob Dylan and YouTube...
Here is Weird Al's parody of Bob Dylan in general and the video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues" in particular. Funny stuff.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nej4xJe4Tdg