Film Space is now showing “A Month of Musicians” throughout October. [In December, they will give you another chance to view Kieslowski’s great Three Colors Trilogy, plus his Veronique.]
Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school, on the 2nd floor. Or maybe the roof. A small but nice place to view movies. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance. Well worth supporting.
At Film Space on October 11, 7 pm: I'm Not There (2007) by Todd Haynes – US/Germany Biography/ Drama/ Music – 135 mins. Starring Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Ben Whishaw, and Marcus Carl Franklin. I'm Not There is a film that dramatizes the life and music of Bob Dylan as a series of shifting personae, each performed by a different actor — poet, prophet, outlaw, fake, star of electricity, rock & roll martyr, born-again Christian — seven identities braided together. The unique editing, visuals, and multiple talented actors portraying Bob Dylan make for a deliciously unconventional experience. Each segment brings a new and fresh take on Dylan's life. Rated R in the US for language, some sexuality, and nudity. Generally favorable reviews: 73/71 out of 100.
This is a brilliant work in my estimation, but very irritating I am sure to all who don’t know an awful lot already about the life and work of Bob Dylan. It would be infinitely confusing. The film was made by those who love Bob Dylan, and who tried to capture the multiple facets of his personality and his life, using an amazing variety of film styles and techniques, and most importantly references. There are references in the film to film styles, to details about the periods, and to a wide variety of movies and TV shows current in each one of the periods.
There are indeed some marvelous performances, and extraordinary thought has gone into the six performances by the six actors playing different sides of Dylan, or embodying different personas. I especially liked Marcus and Cate. Marcus Carl Franklin was 11 years old when he personified the Woody Guthrie side of Dylan, and the kid gives a performance of amazing nuance, and he does indeed sound like he’s been singing songs he himself has written for years, in the folk-song tradition. A terrific performance in my opinion – you can see the marvelous though very short 1-minute sequence where he sings “When the Ship Comes In” by clicking here. You can hear the original song as sung by Dylan here. And you can see a performance of the song in Australia in 1967 by Peter, Paul, and Mary here; this is the way I remember the song being frequently performed, oh so long ago! Marcus Carl Franklin ends up in the Felliniesque closing sequence dressed up like Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp, another always-present aspect of Dylan’s public persona, who was often described as being Chaplinesque.
As for Cate Blanchett, she takes over the feminine side of Dylan when he went through a period when he was sporting effeminate hand and arm gestures on stage. For some reason, for me, she captures the Dylan I was familiar with to a degree that I found spooky, because she caught his essence so completely.
The film becomes better the more you know or learn about Bob Dylan and the more references you can detect. In the Felliniesque 8½ sequence toward the end, the camera pans across the town of Riddle (how often do you see a giraffe wandering calmly through a Wild West town?) and captures briefly three poor kids sitting on the ground half dead and half hostile, with a girl whose hand is resting on a dead pony with a red wound at its throat. It’s simply a throwaway reference to a line in the song “Hard Rain:” “I saw a young girl beside a dead pony.” The movie is dense with such references.
But ultimately it depends on your view of Dylan himself, whether he is an artist and poet who speaks to you. For me, he spoke to me intimately at a period of my life, but now much of his “poetry” I find suspect as to whether it has any meaning at all. And for sure some of his speeches and dialogue, which are very faithfully reconstructed and researched here, with almost every word he utters in the film directly taken from something recorded or something he actually said or wrote – a great deal of it is an awkward attempt to confront authority, but without power or sense or sensibility, using poor sentences that often don’t even make sense syntactically. He was constantly pouting at a world that he thought didn’t understand him, and that wouldn’t let him spout his views without question. Yes, a spoiled brat rebel for most of his life, some of whose private life and views (like his antifeminism) do not bear exposure to light. But it’s certainly a fascinating and enjoyable experiment.
From Playlist: Here are all the Dylan's in Todd Haynes' biopic, I'm Not There:
Cate Blanchett (Jude): Plays Bob during his recalcitrant, "Don’t Look Back" rebellious phase where Dylan would fuck with fans and the media alike. Going electric was almost a purposeful fuck-you to those that wanted to pigeonhole him as a political protest singer. Much of her time is spent in England with hanger-on buddy Bobby Neuwirth.
Christian Bale (Jack/John): Portrays Dylan twice: Once in his protest-music period, characterized by songs like "The Times They Are a-Changin'," and the singer's religious phase, exploring gospel music (typified by the 1980 album Saved).
Ben Wishaw (Arthur): Bob fused with the 19th-century poet Arthur Rimbaud.
Richard Gere (Pat): Dylan in what Todd Haynes calls a "hippie Western" vignette. His Dylan composite is named Pat - as his character is vaguely modeled from Dylan's appearance in Sam Peckinpah's western, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (Dylan wrote music for and co-starred in the film).
Marcus Carl Franklin (Woody): The young Franklin plays Dylan as a boy named Woody, modeled from Guthrie at a young age or some similar composite.
Heath Ledger (Bob): Ledger's Dylan seems the most opaque. He represents Dylan in the extremely vague "Dylan-esque" phase and cheats on his hen-wife Sara (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg). This is a Blood on The Tracks - Desire era (though he does look a little New Morning).
From JenLAND: I’m not there, but everything was. So what if nothing is revealed...or was everything revealed? Director Todd Haynes is a mischievous visionary who puts the music and the myth of Bob Dylan before us in I'm Not There and dares us not to revel in the troubadour's poetic, contentious, ever-changing essence. It's a feast for the eyes, the ears, and the Dylanologist scratching around our minds and hearts. And, get this, never once does Haynes mention the name of the mesmeric changeling at his film's center. There's no need: Cover versions of Dylan songs occupy the movie like angels and demons doing battle at an exorcism. Not content with just one actor to portray Dylan in the act of inventing and reinventing himself, Haynes hired six and hit the fucking jackpot with Cate Blanchett. She burns through Haynes' head-trip odyssey like an illuminating torch. Blanchett's soon-to-be-legendary performance is not a stunt; it's some kind of miracle. Playing the very skinny, androgynous Dylan in his electric years — when his hair stood on end to match his fried nerves — Blanchett extends the possibilities of acting. You won't see a better example of interpretive art this year by man or woman.
As for the movie itself, don't hang back with the brutes who dis it as art-house blather. One very interesting fact, Dylan thought enough of Haynes to give him rights to his music. Haynes is a formalist who likes to experiment, be it queer-world fantasy (Poison), glam rock (Velvet Goldmine), environmental terrorism (Safe) or 1950s melodrama (Far From Heaven). In I'm Not There, form and substance coalesce instead of colliding as they did in Todd Solondz's Palindromes, when eight actors of assorted age, sex, race and body type played the same pregnant teen. Why not six actors to rep six phases of Dylan's career, especially with these actors?
Up first is the remarkable Marcus Carl Franklin, then 11, Haynes' inspired choice to portray Dylan as a vagabond black boy named “Woody” (an homage to Woody Guthrie). Then there's British actor Ben Whishaw, dandied up as Arthur in tribute to Dylan's admiration for the French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud. The reliably superb Christian Bale gets to manifest two sides of the master, as folk prophet Jack and later the Christian convert Pastor John, revving up the congregation with "Pressing On." Heath Ledger digs deep into the challenging role of Robbie, an actor who plays Dylan in a movie and whose relationship to the painter Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) mirrors Dylan's marriage to and divorce from Sarah Lownds (marred from 1965 to 1977). Which I just learned. The final section of the movie, and the most problematic in terms of style shock, belongs to Richard Gere as Billy, not just the outlaw Dylan played in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid but the Dylan who went into exile in Woodstock, New York, after his 1966 motorcycle crash. The Gere sequence, opulently produced and featuring an irresistible rendering of "Goin' to Acapulco" by Jim James, may throw audiences off. But the Fellini-esque circus atmosphere is exactly where the film has been heading all along.
Haynes, who collaborated with Oren Moverman on the deftly intricate script, blends film styles from Jean-Luc Godard to Richard Lester (watch out for an inspired Beatles interlude) to show how far Dylan had to run to escape being pinned down in the lethal glare of public perception. This is never more clear than in the Blanchett segment. Her toking, doping Dylan, named Jude, trades insights with gay poet Allen Ginsberg (David Cross), hits on an Edie Sedgwick-like socialite (Michelle Williams), rages against a prying journalist (Bruce Greenwood) and (surreal alert!) imagines gunning down the folkie audiences at Newport '65 who booed when Dylan traded acoustic for electric. Even behind shades, Blanchett lets us in close to the trapped escape artist rattling his cage. The film, shot by the great Ed Lachman with a camera eye that misses nothing, produces Dylan himself in the end. But he's still not there. Such is the talent of Haynes — and the magnificent Blanchett — that chasing Dylan's shape-shifting shadows becomes an unmissable movie event.
Being noticed can be a burden. Jesus got himself crucified because he got himself noticed. So I disappear a lot. –Dylan
At Film Space on October 18, 7 pm: Sid and Nancy (1986) by Alex Cox – UK Biography/ Drama/ Music – 112 mins. Alex Cox's biopic tells the bleak, heroin-drenched story of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his disturbed American girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Gary Oldman delivers a bravura performance as Sid, matched by Chloe Webb's grating, clearly unhinged Nancy. The two lovers' childlike tenderness with each other contrasts sharply with their bleak, violent nihilism, and while the script implies that Nancy's death was accidental, the line between intention and accident is deliberately blurred. By turns romantic and horrific, Sid and Nancy is often grueling to watch, but always compelling. Cox's romantic vision draws us in while throwing us back in time to London and New York at the inception of the drug-laden British punk era. The film's dreamlike style and a hypnotic score dramatize the schism between Sid and Nancy’s world and the world around them--and the inevitable horror when those worlds collide. Generally favorable reviews: 72 out of 100.
At Film Space on October 25, 7 pm: Linda Linda Linda (2005) by Nobuhiro Yamashita – Japan Comedy/ Drama/ Music – 114 mins. A somewhat beguiling teenage charmer that follows the antics of four high school friends, all girls, who decide to form a band only three days before a potential gig at the annual school festival. Unburdened by plot or hormonal drama, the movie follows the girls through lengthy rehearsals, minor setbacks, and painfully awkward encounters with boys and teachers. With the title taken from a catchy 1980s tune by Japanese punk icons The Blue Hearts, Yamashita's film is as unconventional and understated as a teenage drama can be, yet it's fairly enjoyable with moments of painfully awkward humor, and solid performances by the four lead actresses.
Page 1 of 3 By Thomas Ohlson - Printed Thursday, October 09, 2008