Posts Tagged ‘Todd Haynes’

“I’m Not There”: An Artist as Landscape

December 5, 2007

I’m Not There

I don’t really like talking about my films. Everything I want to say is in the film itself; for me to say anything more is, as the proverb goes, like “drawing legs on a picture of snake.” But from time to time and idea I thought I had conveyed in the film does not seem to have been generally understood. On those occasions I do feel an urge to talk about my work. Nevertheless, I try not to. If what I have said in my film is true, someone will understand.’ – Akira Kurosawa

None of the characters are called Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’s bio of the eccentric artist I’m Not There, which is fine since we’re not dealing with absolutes. I’ve grown weary over the years of bios dealing with the same old things (since Chaplin for goodness sake): who they were sleeping with, what drugs they did, how it all influenced their … yawn! Haynes avoids many of these cliches, partly through non-linear storytelling much like the wonderful film La Vie en Rose did earlier this year, but also by creating the most complex and realistic interpretation of not only an artist but a human being I’ve seen in a long time. It plays almost as a hate letter in response to those who try to put artists and people in simple to understand boxes. That because they are good at something or stand up for something in the world, then that’s all that they are. There’s a devastating moment in the film in which a pompous British interviewer an unnamed character (so proclaims the blank space on imdb.com) played by Bruce Greenwood who in searching for his idea of what truth is uncovers Dylan’s origins and the room falls silent as the mystery behind this artist begins to crumble. Doesn’t the interviewer realize that a person is more than where they’ve come from or more than the style of music that has influenced them or that they’ve influenced. Don’t Dylan’s fans realize that in order to thrive as an artist, the artist has to change! They have to work against the pull of society and who they are as a person. Artists’ have to challenge themselves and what they believe.

In this film Dylan seems to be just as much in search of who he is as Haynes is searching out who Dylan is, but unlike the Brit Interviewer he gives us more than one truth.

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