Bob Dylan film should ‘wash over you like a dream’

I’m Not There, a biopic of folk icon Bob Dylan in which he is conspicuously absent but omnipresent, should ”wash over you like a dream”, the film’s director, Todd Haynes, said on Tuesday.

Viewers should not ”get too bogged down in the literal connections to Dylan and let it take you somewhere”, Haynes told reporters of his ambitious work that channels Dylan through seven characters. ”Let it wash over you and sort of take you like a dream,” he said.

The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival this week.

Beginning with a black boy who calls himself Woody Guthrie (Carl Franklin) and passing through Jude, a rising (male) star played by Cate Blanchett who abandons protest music to embrace amplified rock, to the enigmatic Billy (Richard Gere), the characters incarnate Dylan through the contrasting phases of his life and times.

The device evokes the kaleidoscopic era that shaped the musician, the star, the counter-culture icon, the born-again Christian and the man himself.

The title tune, I’m Not There, exists only on bootleg copies of the 1967 Basement Tapes, made as Dylan was recovering from a motorcycle accident in 1966 that signalled his retreat from the ”central spotlight”, Haynes said.

The soundtrack is made up almost entirely of songs from Dylan’s back catalogue, with a few new versions of better-known songs performed by contemporary artists as well as Dylan classics All Along the Watchtower and Visions of Johanna.

”This is the first dramatic film [Dylan] has permitted anyone to do on his life,” Haynes said, attributing the honour to the film’s ”open structure, something that will keep expanding rather than reducing his life” to a finite story.

The song I’m Not There is a ”beautiful kind of perfect way to describe this film”, Haynes said. ”Every time you try to touch him he’s not there.”

Gere, who has two films in this year’s festival — the other being The Hunting Party, about the search for Bosnian Serb fugitive Radovan Karadzic — acknowledged that the script was ”very bizarre”.

”You had to know a little about Bob Dylan to decipher the script,” he said. After he first read his part, he said he asked Haynes: ”What the fuck is this character?” but then ”had an intuitive sense of what I was doing with the film”.

Dylan ”had a 360-degree influence certainly on my life”, he said.

Blanchett, for her part, was ”terrified”, Haynes said. ”It was a very scary challenge for her.”


The Venice prize-winners will be announced on Saturday and a French film has emerged as a front-runner for the top Golden Lion award.

La Graine et le Mulet (Grain of Life) by Tunisian-born French director Abdellatif Kechiche tells the story of a grandfather who beats the odds by setting up a couscous restaurant on a boat. The movie has top marks from Italian film critics as well as from the public according to the festival newsletter Ciak.

The film is startling for the authenticity of the dialogue, notably in a chaotic scene showing a multigenerational family meal at home, full of gossip, laughs, arguments and complaints in rapid-fire delivery.

Also high in the critics’ estimation is the US film Redacted by Brian de Palma about the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl by United States soldiers.

On Monday, the festival served up quirky US director Wes Anderson’s brotherly bonding odyssey The Darjeeling Limited, in which a trio of brothers embark on a train journey across India in search of each other, their mother and themselves.

The whimsical adventure flick includes a cameo by Bill Murray as a businessman who may or may not be their mystery father.

Chinese actor-director Jiang Wen’s Taiyang Zhaochang Shengqi (The Sun Also Rises), which also premiered on Monday, is a quartet of stories that dovetail together in the end, starring himself and Joan Chen. Beautifully filmed on locations from a village in southern Yunnan to the Gobi Desert in China’s far west, the feature delves deeply into the psyche, dwelling on madness, desire and birth.

The world’s oldest film festival is marking its 75th anniversary this year with 23 films in competition including a ”surprise” entry to be screened at midnight on Thursday. — AFP



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Gina Doggett
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