In 1984, British journalist Arthur Stuart investigates the career of 1970s glam superstar Brian Slade, who was heavily influenced in his early years by hard-living and rebellious American singer Curt Wild.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers,
Six incarnations of Bob Dylan: an actor, a folk singer, an electrified troubadour, Rimbaud, Billy the Kid, and Woody Guthrie. Put Dylan's music behind their adventures, soliloquies, interviews, marriage, and infidelity. Recreate 1960s documentaries in black and white. Put each at a crossroads, the artist becoming someone else. Jack, the son of Ramblin' Jack Elliott, finds Jesus; handsome Robbie falls in love then abandons Claire. Woody, a lad escaped from foster care, hobos the U.S. singing; Billy awakes in a valley threatened by a six-lane highway; Rimbaud talks. Jude, booed at Newport when he goes electric, fences with reporters, pundits, and fans. He won't be classified.Written by
During the sequence when Robbie and Claire buy the motorcycle, Robbie gets out of the car to sit on the motorcycle and even though he locks the car, he leaves the headlights on. See more »
There he lies. God rest his soul, and his rudeness. A devouring public can now share the remains of his sickness, and his phone numbers. There he lay: poet, prophet, outlaw, fake, star of electricity. Nailed by a peeping tom, who would soon discover...
A poem is like a naked person...
I saw this yesterday at my local art-house cinema, with my grandparents who were young when Bob Dylan was 'big' (is my lack of knowledge about Dylan already showing? Oh dear), and I have to say, I'm glad I was there - even if Bob Dylan wasn't.
The much-publicised, overly re-hashed concept driving the film is this: Dylan is portrayed by six actors of different races, ages and genders, none of whom are named Dylan, but represent aspects of his personality and life story. Every art-house buff will squeal at this delightfully off-kilter concept (well, except that it's been done before) - but never used so cleverly I'll admit. But, the cleverness of the concept only remains clever if it is executed well. This is where most people have a problem with the film.
Most of what you may have read in reviews is correct. The film is challenging, borderline plot-less (unless you are generally acquainted with Dylan's life) and seems muddled (again, only if you don't have a general knowledge of his life). For anyone who can't grasp the basic, "each actor represents a stage etc." concept, this film will be lost on them completely... because it gets even more complicated! The film is so layered, with hidden in-jokes, and snippets of real quotes from songs and interviews with Dylan used as dialogue, and story lines within story lines. A great example is Heath Ledger's character: Ledger (an actor), plays an actor, playing Jack Rollins in a biopic, who is the representation of folk-singer-Dylan (a stage). An actor in a biopic playing an actor in a biopic about a singer representing Bob Dylan played by an actor in a biopic. The self-parody is just hilarious in this film.
To add to these 'layers', each actor's "stage" that they represent is filmed in a distinctive cinematic style, for example, the Cate Blanchett as Jude Quinn representing Bob Dylan sequence is shot in lush black and white. Haynes relishes this opportunity to show off, and he does. The film is stylistically stimulating, even if it does drag sometimes for ignoramuses like me who know literally nothing about Bob Dylan.
For those questioning the film's intentions as a biopic, I should think it was really obvious! The opening credits give a huge clue, as the main title comes up in stages: "I", "He", "I'm he", "I'm her", "Not her", "Not here", "I'm not there".
The film is like a dream: you come out of it with this vague (exact details in the film are scarce) and vivid impression of Dylan's personality, without learning anything. The title is certainly relevant - Haynes' actually conceals Dylan in this film! This biopic is conventional in the way it still presents a chronological life story if you arrange it all together and remember the actors represent one person, but it is different in the way it doesn't try to make a real person into a character for a film. This is really the only way to represent someone - by not.
This film is composed of stories and individual representations and metaphors that describe a person's life, their attitudes at points in time and aspects of their personality, but gives us nothing. Absolutely nothing.
So, if you're ready to put the level of effort and concentration required to appreciate and maybe like the film, go for it. But I was not prepared for this film and I wish I'd read a biography before I saw it. That said, not knowing anything did help in a way, as after we had several questions about events in the film and their basis in reality. After all, the trailer had told us that stories were exaggerated, fictionalised, imagined and true. It inspired me enough to look him up on Wikipedia (I know, such dedication!).
The performances are all generally good. Blanchett, Bale and Franklin impressed me the most. Blanchett only falls short because of her voice, but she has the accent correct, and she can't change her voice that much! She became more believable as the film progressed. Charlotte Gainsbourg is also quietly moving in her role as the neglected wife of Ledger's character.
My final opinion is that the film is well executed, but only once you've had time to ruminate on it, research Dylan and hear the director's thoughts on his own work. I read a great deal of reviews as well that helped me to understand (not that I didn't like the film initially; I liked it after I saw it anyway). Appreciation builds the more I learn about the film and the intricate connections between it and it's un-subject.
That said, should a film be this much hard work just to like? Not for some people, but for others, the effort is worth it. It does eventually pay off, but it's exhausting.
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