Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm Not There

Year 2, Day 10 - 1/10/10 - Movie #375

BEFORE: The next logical movie choice would have been "Rock Star" - but I had a DVR conflict last week, and the next airing isn't until Thursday. Something different in a musical bio-pic tonight, with several actors playing Bob Dylan at different times in his life...

THE PLOT: Ruminations on the life of Bob Dylan, where six characters embody a different aspect of the musician's life and work.

AFTER: This movie made about as much sense as the lyrics to Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues", which is to say, none at all. If you thought you knew a little about Dylan's life before watching this, well, you'll probably know a lot less after.

The movie's credits say that it's based on the LIVES of Bob Dylan - but in which life was he a poor black child named "Woody Guthrie", riding on freight trains with hoboes and expertly playing the blues? Dylan, the former Robert Zimmerman, might have been enigmatic about his upbringing, but that doesn't mean you can just make up random stuff for his biography!

The movie has 5 or 6 interwoven (yet not interlocking) tales that are semi-based on Dylan's life (sorry, LIVES) and music - the central one got the most attention, with Cate Blanchett doing a VERY passable impression, as a folk-music star named Jude Quinn, who dates starlets, butts heads with a BBC music critic (Bruce Greenwood) and alienates fans after playing electric guitar at a jazz festival. That's as close to "reality" as this movie gets - but if they had made a 2-hour movie that was all Cate Blanchett as Dylan, I would have enjoyed that - and think of the publicity that would have gotten! Maybe they tried this, and realized they didn't have enough material?

We also see Christian Bale as a folk-singer named Jack Rollins who becomes a Pentecostal preacher, and Heath Ledger as a movie-star named Robbie (who also played a character named Jack Rollins in a movie...I think) who's in the midst of separating from his French artist wife. And apparently in the future, Bob Dylan will find a way to travel back in time to Missouri in the early 1900's, and go by the name Billy McCarty (who might also be a retired Billy the Kid...I think), face off against Pat Garrett (Bruce Greenwood, again).

Yes, I know these are probably metaphors - but you can't just string a bunch of random film scenes together, and hope to create a coherent movie, any more than you can throw a bunch of jigsaw puzzle pieces up in the air and hope that they land as a completed image.

The one scene I liked had Blanchett/Quinn/Dylan hanging out with beat poet Allen Ginsberg (David Cross) and they were staring up at a statue of Jesus on the crucifix. Blanchett/Quinn yells up at Jesus, saying a phrase that audience members no doubt shouted at Dylan in the late 60's - "Play your early stuff!" That's my kind of humor.

However, I learned NOTHING about Bob Dylan from this movie that I didn't already see in the documentary "Don't Look Back", and I learned almost nothing about the nature of fame. It's very rare that I feel I've wasted time watching a movie, but this is one of those times.

RATING: 3 out of 10 guitar cases

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