by carl wilson

She's Gone Like the Spot

Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan, shooting I'm Not There.

This has been all over the interblogs already, but maybe it's been a lovely summer weekend where you were, as it was where I was, and you were ignoring the interblogs completely. In which case, you will want to see this leaked clip from the upcoming I'm Not There, Todd Haynes's movie about - or around and about - Bob Dylan, which is being released in September. For some context to the clip, which is mostly being shat upon by the self-styled know-it-alls of interbloggery (by which I mean not S'gum itself but S'gum's commentators), it's helpful to remember that the film is an episodic series of vignettes, featuring six different actors playing Dylan in different phases of his life, including, "Woody (Marcus Carl Franklin) - an 11-year-old black boy, always on the run; Robbie - a womanising performer, always on the road; Jude (Cate Blanchett) - the young androgynous rock star; John/Jack (Christian Bale) - a folk idol who reinvents himself as an evangelist; Billy (Richard Gere) - the famous outlaw, miraculously alive but growing old." (I wonder if they originally tried to get John Travolta for the Gere role, as the Times insinuated yesterday is standard practice?)

The device is a somewhat obvious one given Dylan's famously mercurial and elusive persona, but it's still ballsy to do it. I've never revisited Haynes' glam-rock period pic Velvet Goldmine but I felt at the time that it failed because it got overly absorbed with some fairly obvious sexuality issues around the Iggy Pop/David Bowie/Lou Reed figures; but that aside, Haynes is the person who made Safe (one of the best American movies of the '90s) and Far From Heaven and Poison and Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, and in the battle of the Todds and their multiple-actors-play-one-character movies - and I actually did like Palindromes at least somewhat - I know where I side. (I have a much trickier time in the battle of the Andersons: Wes or P.T.?)

I'm pleased for instance by these comments from Blanchett about the film: "Even though the film's aim is not to be a biopic, people automatically will want to receive it like that. Even though I had no interest in imitating Dylan, Todd was really specific that I wore the exact suit that he wore in Manchester in 1965, and the hair. He wants those iconic references, but he doesn't want an imitation, so it was a really difficult tightrope to walk. Which I hope I walked without falling off too often."

Also note that the film is titled after the Basement Tapes-era I'm Not There (1956), which is one of Dylan's best terrible songs, poker-faced yet compelling music with nearly gibberish lyrics, eg, "Well it's all about diffusion that I cry for her veil/ I don't need anybody now beside me to tell/ And it's all affirmation I receive, but it's not/ She's a lone-hearted beauty, but she's gone like the spot": Lyrics with a really absent centre, a collapsible subject, but a charismatic melody - which suggests how I imagine Haynes wants the film to be. And that seems like a good antidote to the almost-too-available-Bob of the past couple of years, the cooperative Dylan of the Scorsese documentary, the author of the memoirs, the far-less-prickly interview subject, even the radio-show host.

On the other hand, I suspect that it's somewhat impossible to make a wholly satisfying movie about Bob Dylan (just as it's always impossible to be wholly satisfied by Bob Dylan and his music, which is how he manages to keep you craving it [little-known fact: the Stones' Satisfaction was actually about Dylan] [alright, no, it wasn't]), but I have a fair amount of faith that we will be arousingly, absorbingly, worthily dissatisfied by this one. And on a third hand, David Cross as Allen Ginsberg is the best idea anybody's had for what to do with David Cross. (Even better than this idea.) His usual barely repressed smirk of delight at how clever he is suddenly transforms into Ginsberg's uneasy barely repressed smirk of delight at how closely he's communing with William Blake's angels and their little bareassed nirvana. He really has the affect. I love how in this scene Dylan is running his customary con games and then gets so easily conned himself. Aside from that the scene seems slight, but hell, it's just a scene.

General | Posted by zoilus on Monday, July 16 at 3:25 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (7)



One of the best multiple actors/single character movies is Bunuel's That Obscure Object of Desire!

Posted by dylan on July 19, 2007 2:05 PM



Joey Cobden! That kid's gonna be a star.

My vote's for Wes.

Posted by Andrew Rose on July 19, 2007 12:05 PM



That clip confirmed Cate Blanchett as a great actress for me. She conveyed the boyish glee of contemplating ones own success like I've never seen it. 'Don't Look Back' is a great film, but it didn't do that.

Posted by Dixon on July 18, 2007 3:42 PM



This scene definitely makes you think, well, it's a bit just like an outtake from Don't Look Back, but that's why I was emphasizing the importance of remembering that there'll be the segments from other real & imagined Dylan periods for which there's not the same kind of documentary experience - and that all put together they'll add up to quite a different piece of art than DLB. (Which is a great artwork in itself.)

I still haven't gotten around to seeing Ray, mongreldog, but I've seen Walk the Line three times and been fully engaged each time - even though Phoenix is only three-quarters of the way there as Cash (and only halfway there vocally), it's a great story - one of the greatest love stories in popular music - and you can't get that from performance footage. And Reese Witherspoon, who I always like well enough, is terrific as June. Beforehand I thought she was too wasp-upper-class for the role, but she manages to use that to convey the feeling of June as "country royalty" while still making her a plausible southern cornpone singer.

So a bio-pic, done well, can serve to illuminate, interpret and contextualize the music just the same way a biography can do. (It can also cheeze them up, of course.)

Posted by zoilus on July 18, 2007 1:02 PM



OMG David Cross should receive a lifetime commission to just BE Allen. Aaaah!

Posted by Jordan on July 18, 2007 11:40 AM



The clip is kinda fun, but why not watch "Don't Look Back"? But then again, I never quite get the biopic thing - why watch Jamie Foxx as Ray, or whichever Phoenix as Cash when you can listen to and/or see the real thing?

Posted by mongreldog on July 18, 2007 10:45 AM



I don't care. I LOVED that.

Posted by Dixon on July 17, 2007 5:07 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson