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Monday, June 23, 2008

"I'm Not There" directed by Todd Haynes (Part 2)

Oh, well, hello again there, friends and movies fans. It's time for part two of my review of "I'm Not There", the Todd Haynes directed biopic inspired by the life of Bob Dylan. In "I'm Not There" directed by Todd Haynes (Part 1) I begin to unravel some of the more puzzling and befuddling aspects of the Haynes' film. Come on, ...together you and I can break the code.

In "I'm Not There" directed by Todd Haynes (Part 1) I discussed the Carl Marcus Franklin version of Bob Dylan. In another interesting scene, the Christian Bale manifestation of Dylan causes a stir with some sympathetic remarks he makes regarding JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. So, you may be wondering (as I was), did Bob Dylan really make such remarks. The answer is: yes. Bob Dylan, who originally showed signs of warmly embracing the social protest movements of the 60's with songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They are a Changin'", by 1963 was feeling used and abused by some of these groups. His frustration boiled over while receiving an award before one of them. "Accepting the "Tom Paine Award" from the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee at a ceremony shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a drunken, rambling Dylan questioned the role of the committee, insulted its members as old and balding, and claimed to see something of himself (and of every man) in assassin Lee Harvey Oswald." (source: Bob Dylan Biography — ( 8,473 Words ))

In perhaps the most interesting portrayal of Dylan in the film, Cate Blanchett portrays the mid-60's "electric" Dylan, and in one scene Blanchett's Dylan is nearly attacked by a bellboy with a knife, angry about Dylan's supposed betrayal of his folk roots. Did this event really happen? My research indicates NO. The following excerpt is found in the Portland Mercury: "Dylan's drunken hotel room hissy fit about a shattered glass, captured in D.A. Pennebaker's Don't Look Back, is re-imagined here as a hostile standoff with a crazed bellboy (giving Cate Blanchett the opportunity to deliver one of the great movie lines of all time: "Either be groovy or leave, man!")." (source: Feature - Features - The Six Faces of Bob Dylan - Portland Mercury) Dylan's "hissy fit" concerning the broken glass can be seen here: YouTube - Bob Dylan arguing

Cate Blanchett gets to play Dylan in the era when he switched from exclusively playing acoustic folk to electric, and "I'm Not There" gives a portrayal of some of his fans outrage which is both historical and accurate. Anyone who's somewhat well acquainted with rock history knows that it is true that Dylan was roundly booed in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival when he came on the stage blasting his new brand of folk rock with it's amplified sound. And it's also true that a fan in the audience at one of Dylan's performances shortly thereafter screamed out, "Judas!" You can see Dylan's reaction here YouTube - Bob Dylan Judas or here, for the long version YouTube - Bob Dylan Judas Like a Rolling Stone Full. One of the more interesting Dylan lines in the movie can be related: "Whether you're a folk singer or a Christian, Rock'n'Roll was the devil."

Briefly, Michelle Williams' character (who pops up during the Cate Blanchett portion of the film) is supposed to be a fictional take on Edie Sedgwick, a model and subject of some of Andy Warhol's work, who is also portrayed in the movie Factory Girl (2006), and played by Sienna Miller. The Heath Ledger portion of "I'm Not There" fictionalizes Dylan's relationship with his wife Sara, who is said to be the inspiration behind songs on Dylan's album "Blood on the Tracks."

And finally, an older, grayer Dylan is portrayed by Richard Gere, but there is yet another twist... This Dylan is called "Billy the Kid." So what connection is there between Bob Dylan and Billy the Kid? Well, Dylan was one of the stars of the1973 western motion picture Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973), and he also wrote some songs for the movie's soundtrack, Album reviews: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, by Bob Dylan - Helium. This also might shed some light for the Dylan novice, as to why Heath Ledger portrays Bob Dylan as Dylan the actor and not Dylan the folk singer, or folk rock legend.

Well, if you perhaps saw "I'm Not There", and didn't like it because you were confused or couldn't follow what was going on, I hope these last two posts have helped you. Todd Haynes put a lot of work and creativity into this film, so it is not necessarily for casual viewing, but anyone who is really interested in Bob Dylan, and willing to put in the time and effort into unweaving the tapestry of Hayne's web will find it more than worth their while.

"I'm Not There" directed by Todd Haynes (Part 1)


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