Had the below clip of Cate Blanchett inhabiting the body of a twenty-four-year-old Bob Dylan following the troubadour’s electric transgression at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival appeared before I began categorizing the year’s remaining films, I would’ve bumped Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There up to "Sure Thing" status. Because something is happening here, and I sure dig whatever it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?
Haynes’s intent with the Dylan-sanctioned I’m Not There is to "ruminate" on the life of a shape-shifter from his folkie origins to his contentious reign as the preeminent (pop cultural) voice of the 1960s counterculture to his surprising, "Gotta Serve Somebody" Born Again epiphany to, ultimately, his practically unchallenged modern-day deification. The Dylan seal of approval likely guarantees that we won’t be seeing or hearing much about his shabby treatment of Joan Baez or the accusations of plagiarism which have hounded him throughout his career – and that’s okay in the context of what Haynes is doing. At least this isn’t going to be one of those "great man" biopics like Ray or Walk the Line, both of which, despite their compelling lead performances, are shit. By selecting a number of different actors with wildly different personae to interpret the too-rapidly-evolving Dylan (no one changes that drastically that often without an eye toward their own legacy), Haynes may be able to subtly critique the artist while examining his galvanic impact on our culture.
That seems to be what’s going on in this first glimpse of Haynes’s movie, in which Dylan goes fanboy-giddy over meeting Alan Ginsberg (David Cross). The singer-songwriter-Judas seems more impressed with the attention he now commands than anything else. If the rest of I’m Not There is this sharply observed, we’re in for something special.