Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Why I didn't like I'm Not There

I almost never advance much of an opinion about a movie because I really don't have valid opinions about movies. But after having this movie floating around in my head, and then reading Anthony Audi's pretty solid review of it in the Nass in the Anti-Issue, I figured out what bothered me about it. Or, things that bothered me about it. The movie isn't really a single entity, nor are my gripes with it.

In short... it's not that it's bad, it's that I don't even know what it was doing. And that might have been a good thing, but it wasn't.

For instance, the tarantula crawling around Blanchett/Dylan. It's not exactly an inside joke that Dylan wrote a book called Tarantula. So what was the point of the reference? Just the visual effect of a tarantual crawling around the trendy white room in which Blanchett/Dylan is breaking down? It was cool, it worked as such... but why?

And, further, the whole Blanchett portion of the movie. She's fantastic, and it's in main good (I think the Ballad of the Thin Man montage was overwrought, but it's enjoyable), but it was weirdly and ineffectively self-referential. You have the Dylan-fanatics running around who have the songs and stories better memorized and more studied that Dylan had them, and Blanchett breaking down with the weird strain of satisfying the demands of an irrational public... ok. You could make a lot of great movies about that. But the weird thing is, isn't that exactly what this movie is? A weird, semi-obsessive, inside-jokey paean to a mythological Dylan? Or is the movie intended to be reflexive, to break down under investigation and questioning, just as it's not really the point to sit there freaking out about what the hell the hand-made blade or the child's balloon are, except precisely what they are?

But see, that's the problem. Dylan is seductive because there IS a depth to it, something brilliant and visionary and visceral in the music, the language. Blanchett's Dylan can't deal with the expectation of more, he doesn't know what the hell more there is to do, anyways. But the movie doesn't achieve that, at all, because, after all it IS a biopic. The tarantula running around on the screen is a cool image which would just be what it is, except that it's obviously also a reference to the book.

Anyways, so almost every little vignette of the movie is awesome, even the weirdness of the Richard Gere sequence, and it's extraordinarily well done (even the self-consciously over-wrought "going electric" at the Newport Folk Festival, replete with axe wielding, crazed Pete Seeger). But, in sum, what justifies the self-conscious references, the built-in absurdities? It's a biopic. It's about Dylan. But there's just not enough there.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes it is abundantly clear which HP is speaking.

    See you folks quite soon.