Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm Not There - Sean Mulhearn

The ordinary biopic will choose to chart the few major events in the subject's life and manufacture a plot around it in order to consolidate and define that person. Todd Hayne's film, I'm Not There, however, uses six actors with six very different identities that meander through interweaving, or sometimes even contradictory, story lines. Todd Hayne's biopic of Dylan, then, might not serve to define him, but rather to distort that definition and instead manifest the ambiguity that became a signature of Dylan's.

The lack of distinction between which aspects of which characters are inspired by true events in Dylan's life and those that are most likely indirectly revealing a piece of his personality further serve the overarching theme of an enigmatic identity. Roles such as Cate Blanchett's clearly are meant to recreate the mannerisms, appearance, and even some of the events of Dylan's life, while there are other roles such as Woody Guthrie or Billy the Kid that seem to possess no sincere conformity to the likeness of Dylan initially, but eventually prove to be at least providing insight into some part of him.

The contradictory characters and the chaotic plot of this biopic may be better described as the opposite of a biopic, because the final product of Todd Haynes' film ultimately insists on blurring anything we thought we knew about Bob Dylan, rather than clarifying it. After all, at the end of the film Cate Blanchett's character, the most rebellious and enigmatic of the six, insists that "everyone knows I'm not a folk singer": defying the one label every Dylan fan has always assumed they could place on him.

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