Sunday, December 23, 2007
I decided to stop writing and talking about Bob Dylan after I ran into the esteemed, wise and saintly editor of The Sunday Times at the last Wembley Arena concert. This paragon of all human virtue asked me how many Dylan concerts I had attended. 'Three or four," I replied. The bronzed, gleaming demi-god looked startled. I realised he had assumed I was some kind of stalker and had been expecting an answer in the high hundreds. All that had actually happened was that, after Time Out of Mind, I had, in several articles, celebrated the return to form of this great artist. I was even on the cover of the magazine, photoshopped on to the Freewheelin' album as some kind of crazed gooseberry, rabidly molesting Bob and Suzy Rotolo. Anyway, in deep disguise for fear that I might once again bump into that Man for All Seasons, that unique combination of Plato and Alexander, that editing colossus, I went to see Todd Haynes' I'm Not There. Here's a lucid and favourable review in case you don't know what's going on in this film. The main point is that the Dylan characters are never called Dylan and he is played by many different actors. I'm not sure what to say about the result. I hated it for about half an hour but then began to accept its brazen self-indulgence - how on earth would anybody who knew little or nothing of Dylan make sense of this? Three very good things saved the film. First, the songs were a well chosen string of Bob's best. Second, Cate Blanchett - I suspect she is currently the best movie actor in the world - was stupendous. Third, the sequence in which Dylan becomes Billy the Kid played by Richard Gere is strange, beautiful and true. Old Pat Garrett's almost recognition of the man he thought he had killed is wonderful. In the end, Todd Haynes resolves his hero's split personalities by interpreting them as a longing for an unattainable authenticity. It's not the whole story, but it's a good one. And, to be honest, it's better told in the six minutes of Blind Willie McTell than in the 135 minutes of I'm Not There. Anyway, boss, I've done Bobby, now I'm off to go through Cate's dustbins.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:28 am