I'm Not There (USA, 2007)
Directed by Todd Haynes
Starring Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Richard Gere
I've spoken in the past about the various problems associated with making biopics. In my review of Ed Wood I commented that there is a continual clash between "the supposedly objective, historical record of events and the subjective sensibility of the filmmaker", which can only be resolved if the filmmaker makes his or her intentions clear from the outset.
"the Richard Gere cowboy sequence". Gere plays outlaw Billy the Kid, who has gone into hiding from lawman Pat Garrett. These scenes are intended to pastiche Dylan's performance in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, as well as conveying Dylan's nature as an outsider. But instead they feel like one long non-sequitur, with vague ideas about justice and rebellion coming to the fore but never being developed. Gere looks and feels out of place, like he had slept for thirty years and woke up thinking he was still in Days of Heaven.
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, in that it recreates key events from Dylan's life without explaining why they are so significant. While Dylan fans will relish in the detail and pick up on every reference to his back catalogue, the film doesn't provide any real way in for the casual viewer who may be coming to Dylan for the first time. And like Gandhi, it relies all too often on us being interested in the reputation of the man, when what is really interesting and engaging is the different aspects of his character. In short the film gives us a number of performances, all of them artistically interesting but none of them particularly empathetic.
If..... But as much as we admire this moment, it still feels like a moment rather than a piece in a bigger theme or narrative. At its lowest points the film could just pass for a series of music videos, taking Dylan's music and pairing it with the oddest choice of images.
Verdict: A fascinating failure