Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

DVD Zone: June 2008

| May 30, 2008

I’m Not There
The Weinstein Company

How strange is it to be Bob Dylan? On one hand, you’re revered as one of the most respected and influential artists in the history of music. Every bit of your work is dissected, annotated, and sifted through for every possible meaning. On the other, your past achievements are held in such esteem that it’s often forgotten you’re still producing new material and are, in fact, still among the living.

On top of all that, you’re the subject of a film like I’m Not There.

Not a documentary but not exactly a bio-pic either, I’m Not There claims to be inspired by “the music and lives of Bob Dylan,” and features six different actors portraying characters who represent him in six different phases of his life. The entertwining segments vary wildly in tone, style, and coherence, and offer nothing in the way of understanding the artist or his impact.

There’s Marcus Carl Franklin in the role of Dylan as an 11-year-old black child, riding the rails and discovering the roots of American folk music. In segments shot documentary-style, Christian Bale appears as the Dylan who shot to stardom as the flag-bearer for the new folk movement, and eventually the Dylan who experienced a brief conversion to Christianity.

The late Heath Ledger shows up as the Dylan of the late ’60s, disillusioned with the political fights and the direction of his music, and Richard Gere acts in a Fellini-inspired segment as gunslinger Billy The Kid.

But the most talked-about performance belongs to Cate Blanchett, as Dylan gone electric. Although she was nominated for an Academy Award for the role, Blanchett’s segment turns out to be a surreal mash of scenes trying to cop the look of D.A. Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back.

I’m Not There tries to throw everything it can into the mix, and as a result, turns out to be a jumbled mess. With a running time of two hours and 15 minutes, you stop caring long before the end-credits roll.

The special features on the two-disc set fare a bit better, with commentary by director and co-writer Todd Haynes, two deleted scenes, and a good segment on the music of the film.

There are a couple of decent moments in the film, so it’s not a complete loss. However, if you want a cohesive dissertation on the man and his impact, I’m Not There isn’t it.

Film: *1/2 Features:***

What’s Going On: The Life And Death Of Marvin Gaye / Greatest Hits: Live In 1976

Eagle Vision

Through archive interviews with friends, family, and the man himself, the tumultuous life of Marvin Gaye falls under the microscope in What’s Going On. From his childhood with a tyrannical father in Washington D.C. to his years as one of the biggest acts on Motown Records with founder Berry Gordy serving as a surrogate father, What’s Going On paints the picture of a man torn in several directions by his family, his Motown responsibilities, and the growing social concerns of the late ’60s.

Of course, his volatile relationship with his father would ultimately cost him his life, as he was gunned down during an argument with the man in 1984.

On top of the interview segments, the film uses re-entactments to highlight certain portions of Gaye’s life to surprisingly good effect.

Packaged together in a two-disc “collectors edition,” Greatest Hits: Live In 1976 comes from a performance in Amsterdam and gives exactly what the title says — the hits. However, Gaye wasn’t on top of his game that night, so there’s nothing really ground-breaking in the set that you can’t live without.

Special features are a little light, with only What’s Going On featuring extra material, including extended interviews and bonus live performances.

The two-disc set isn’t essential for your collection, but the documentary makes it worth your while.

What’s Going On: *** Features: **1/2

Live In 1976: ** Features: None

Timothy Hiatt

Category: Columns, Monthly

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