A Multi-Dimensional Dylan

Friday, November 23, 2007

To die-hard fans of Bob Dylan, it made all the sense in the world that Todd Haynes decided to make a biopic using six actors to play the singer-songwriter. How better to capture a man who has spent a career inventing new personae for himself?

The resulting film, "I'm Not There," is a fascinating experiment that, if the viewer is willing to surrender to Haynes's sometimes hermetic meditations on Dylan's life, heartily rewards the investment. Often using real-life vignettes and Dylan's own quotations as his jumping-off point, Haynes has created an antidote to the "Behind the Music" chronology, delivering an absorbing, occasionally hallucinatory disquisition on how Dylan has brilliantly eluded his audience's projections.

Cate Blanchett, who plays Dylan when he went electric, is getting deserved press for her uncanny performance, which goes beyond the mere impersonation she delivered as Katharine Hepburn in "The Aviator." (The Newport Folk Festival scene alone is worth the price of admission.) But more haunting are young African American actor Marcus Carl Franklin, who plays Dylan in his early self-invention as hobo-waif; Charlotte Gainsbourg, who embodies the stable relationships in Dylan's past; and the Altmanesque landscape of pastoral Americana that serves as a backdrop while Richard Gere (as aging fugitive Billy the Kid) listens to Jim James deliver an ethereal cover of "Goin' to Acapulco." Shivers.

-- Ann Hornaday

I'm Not There R, 135 minutes Contains profanity, sexuality and nudity. Area theaters.

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