I'm Not There

An extraordinary pop art puzzle.

Film Review by Laura Smith | 07 Dec 2007
  • I'm Not There
Film title: I'm Not There
Director: Todd Haynes
Starring: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger
Release date: 21 Dec
Certificate: 15

Todd Hayne's daring, surreal and exhilarating paean to Bob Dylan has no less than six actors playing different aspects of the elusive troubadour. The result is an impressionistic, wildly inventive film that circles tantalisingly close to reality without ever name-checking the singer. Crazy as it sounds, the multiple casting is a terrific conceit: this is Dylan as shapeshifter, endlessly reinventing himself and his career. We have Bale, magnetic and intense, as Protest Bob and then again as Born-Again Bob; Ledger swaggers through the seventies as leather-coat-wearing Butch Bob; a black, 11 year-old, geetar-toting Mini Bob channels Woody Guthrie, and Richard Gere is stubbly and cryptic as Backwoods Bob, getting back to nature in the metaphorical town of Riddle. Confused yet? And I haven't even mentioned Cate Blanchett, who truly never has to worry about type-casting, and is fabulous as frizzy-haired Sixties Bob. Stooped, stoned and skittish, staggering through Andy Warhol parties and literally machine-gunning a folksy crowd as Dylan goes electric, she is utterly mesmerizing. Haynes lets the different stories shift in and out of each other in radically different styles, from mockumentary to surrealist fable, with nods to Richard Lester's Beatles films and shades of Fellini. This is biography viewed through a kaleidoscope, subjected to a dream-logic; a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Haynes wanders off track somewhat in the Gere sequence: the deliberate strangeness of the spooky carnivalesque Western is perhaps a shift of focus too far. But in all it's an extraordinary pop art puzzle, vivid and textured, with a brilliantly executed soundtrack that always reminds you of the ghost at the centre of it all, fractured and many-faced, there but not there. [Laura Smith]