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Movie Review

I’m Not There a.k.a. “Io non sono qui”

MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexuality and nudity

Reviewed by: Spencer Schumacher
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Biography, Drama, Music
Length:
2 hr. 15 min.
Year of Release:
2007
USA Release:
November 21, 2007; DVD: May 6, 2008
Copyright, The Weinstein Company
Copyright, The Weinstein Company
Copyright, The Weinstein Company
Copyright, The Weinstein Company
Copyright, The Weinstein Company
Copyright, The Weinstein Company
Copyright, The Weinstein Company
Copyright, The Weinstein Company
Copyright, The Weinstein Company
Copyright, The Weinstein Company
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Featuring: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Benz Antoine, Shaun Balbar, Mark Camacho, Joe Cobden, David Cross, Larry Day, Thiéry Dubé, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Garth Gilker, Bruce Greenwood, Kristen Hager, Jessica Kardos, Fanny La Croix, Julianne Moore, Tim Post, Marie-Julie Rivest, Kim Roberts, Yolonda Ross, Dennis St John, Craig Thomas, Max Walker, Michelle Williams
Director: Todd Haynes
Producer: Philip Elway, John Goldwyn, Andreas Grosch, Douglas E. Hansen, Wendy Japhet, Amy J. Kaufman, Hengameh Panahi, Charles Pugliese, Jeff Rosen, John Sloss, Steven Soderbergh, James D. Stern, Christine Vachon, John Wells
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

To capture the chameleon-like life of a folk/rock icon writer/director Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven”) hired six actors to portray seven characters that make up the life of Bob Dylan in the unconventional bio-pic “I’m Not There.”

Dylan is known to have taken on different personalities and pseudonyms during his long and illustrious career—his most regularly used stage name influenced by poet Dylan Thomas—and the film uses these divergent personalities to craft a rather unique way of telling his story. For audience members who find comfort in a traditional linear structure, you won’t find it here. Though the film does have a loose narrative thread of Dylan’s life starting as an eleven year old to later in his career, the film spends a lot of time bouncing through the colorful time line that is his life.

Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, and Richard Gere are among the ensemble that take turns portraying various aspects of the musician’s life and work. Of all the portrayals of Dylan’s life, the most impressive is turned in by Cate Blanchett (“The Lord of the Rings,” “Babel”). In a rather unorthodox casting decision, Blanchett plays Dylan playing a character named Jude, Dylan during his most outspoken and argumentative days. Except for experimental films or music videos, this type of story treatment has not been done in a mainstream movie.

The film starts with a young Bobby Dylan taking on the persona of a train-hopping, eleven year-old (Marcus Carl Franklin) African-American guitar player who goes by the name of Woody Gutherie. It then goes back and forth, and forth and back, hitting various parts of his life and career.

Considering the subject matter, the film is relatively tame for an R-rating. There is a fair amount of profanity, as well as a brief sex scene early in the film between Heath Ledger’s Dylan and a young woman that we see nude in a rather tight close up of her chest. The scene is shot in very cinematic black and white. There is a brief scene of nudity when Heath Ledger parades around with a loosely hung towel.

“I’m Not There” is a film definitely for distinguished tastes. The film is very artistic, and the cinematography, that goes from lush colors to crisp black and whites, make the film artistically pleasing. Film enthusiasts and aspiring film-makers will probably enjoy the unconventional casting and non typical story structure, and fans of Bob Dylan will probably enjoy this “out of the box” look at his life as well. Most general audience members may not find enough in this film to sustain their interest, during the constantly shifting story structure. If you’re looking for a film a bit out of the mainstream, than “I’m Not There” is worth finding.

Violence: None / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—As a marginal Dylan fan and amateur filmmaker, I enjoyed the style and unorthodox flow of the film and the few Dylan references I caught. For anyone, such as my father sitting next to me, that is a Dylan enthusiast, you will find this film will instantly make you want to see it again, and again, and again. Every line, every scene, every prop is specifically placed to reference something in Dylan’s work. It’s like every piece of the film is it’s own “Where’s Waldo.” Cate Blanchette is unbelievable in her depiction of Dylan.

From a Christian perspective, this film is worth watching for two reasons. First you have a plethora of personalities of a man that may be trying to find himself or may be simply giving the public whatever, yet there is still a man searching (and finding) God amidst all the personas. Second, it is interesting as a Christian to watch a secular viewpoint of Dylan’s “Christian years” shuffled in among other times in his life. What is a matter of eternity to us is simply a chapter like any other for an unbeliever.

If you don’t like Dylan, don’t bother with this film. If you are, you will find yourself thinking about little else for some time after watching the film.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Aaron Hollingshead, age 35