Monday, April 07, 2008

I’m Not There – artful, enjoyable, stimulating

I hadn’t really fancied I’m Not There, probably as a reaction to the incessant wall of hype greeting the film’s release.

And half an hour into yesterday’s showing at my local art-house cinema, I felt vindicated.

Harrumph! Woody, the tiresomely precocious young black version of Dylan, had me gritting my teeth. Hollywood does it again, I was thinking - manages to turn gold into lead. Why was I wasting my time in a cinema on a fine spring Sunday?

Then some new characters were introduced – notably Rimbaud and Ms Blanchett – and I’m Not There took wing and eventually started soaring. And the next 90 minutes was riveting.

Ideas were bursting from the screen so quickly that you had to concentrate hard to pick up all the references, catch all the quotations.

But it was more than a sterile intellectual exercise – it was emotionally engaging, too. You were regularly moved by the script and the performances. The chaos of something approaching Dylan’s world was beautifully evoked. And the use of Dylan’s music was spellbinding.

I’m Not There is not, as I had suspected, an exploitation biopic. No, it’s a major movie in its own right, an artful rumination on Dylan’s genius, and an appropriately masterful contribution to our perception of who he really is (or might be).

I’ll be buying the DVD, partly to max on the enjoyment, partly to try unravelling the complexities of a richly layered piece of art.

If you haven’t yet seen I’m Not There, you’re in for a treat – it’s enjoyable and endlessly stimulating.

Gerry Smith