Six characters (an actor, a folk singer, an electrified troubadour, the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, outlaw Billy the Kid, and the American singer Woody Guthrie) embody the different personas of music legend Bob Dylan in scenes that chronicle his rise from unknown folk singer to international icon.
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It may be Haynes’s most conceptually audacious movie, organized through a series of radical visual, narrative, and tonal shifts to capture and contextualize Dylan’s own carefully stage-managed mutability.
It divides the life and career of Bob Dylan into numerous segments played by everyone from an African-American child to a woman so that echoes of one life sound absurd in another. I’m Not There’s replication of the day’s standard documentary style and newsreel footage recalls Kane’s “March of Time” pastiche, and the result is a film that begins with the assumption that the subject cannot be demystified and so rejects altogether everything from narrative to continuity in casting.
…Never create anything. It will be misinterpreted. It will chain you and follow you for the rest of your life. And it will never change." I’M NOT THERE is a gleeful explosion of this grumpy outlook; Dylan’s entire public life is the raw material, but Haynes uses his own passions and fascinations to free both Dylan and viewer from the burden of ‘the truth,’ and welcome them into a bigger world.