Most Dylan acolytes probably rushed out to see I’m Not There — Todd Haynes’ unconventional meditation on the life and times of the elusive rock legend — when it opened a few weeks ago. Before it leaves town, movie buffs should check out it too.
An almost anti-biopic, with six actors representing different stages of his career, the film is lined with visual and verbal references not only to past images of the man born Robert Zimmerman (the doc Don’t Look Back, the mod Western Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid) but also to the styles of classic directors like Godard and Fellini.
This could be a mess, but it’s not. From the kinetic opening credits depicting street-level down-and-outers staring into the camera, the cocky Haynes grabs your eyeballs with a tightly constructed pastiche of arresting imagery. And Cate Blanchett gives a performance that is more Dylan than Dylan. In the midst of nailing his 1960s-cool reticence, she also opens him up with dialogue that speculates what he was thinking while tweaking out-of-it questioners.
Some moviegoers may find it all too self-conscious. Like Dylan followers and film-history lovers, however, Haynes fans will see I’m Not There as another example of his growing artistry. Hurry up, though. It looks like the movie is about to slip away like one of Dylan’s personas.