Reviewing I'm Not There was something I was keen to do, although my knowledge of Bob Dylan was minimal to none. I was born in the late 1970's but, for the most part, the singer (who I discovered is still alive contrary to what I believed) has been a recluse since the late 1960's - at least in terms of on-stage performances.
I'm Not There shows 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.
There are two reasons to watch this movie. The first is the wonderful music which is pretty much exclusively Bob Dylan tracks, although some are re-recordings and remixes by other artists. His music really is quite superb and often tells much of the story throughout the movie, and Bob Dylan's life, perfectly.
So what do I think of this movie overall? Well I can see the artistic merit, the wonderful performances, and the superb audio, but it probably isn't a movie I would sit down and watch too often. I found it quite long and drawn out in places, a bit confusing as to who is who and, well, just confusing. Given that the movie takes some liberties with actual events it also can't be treated as historically accurate which is a shame given the cultural significance of both the man, and the era. Still despite my mixed feelings this is a great achievement in cinema worth watching at least once.
A unique twist on the usual bio-pic, I'm Not There succeeds due to the performances. Having said that this isn't a movie which everyone will appreciate or fall in love with but we recommend people check this movie out at least once.
Icon Films are one of the most consistently impressive studios when it comes to transfer of their top-line movies to Blu-Ray and I'm Not There certainly falls into the impressive category. As you can imagine from a movie released to cinemas less then two years ago the image is as clean as one could expect on a technical level. The video is encoded at 2.35:1 using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and looks remarkably sharp with realistic and natural colour and contrast levels with tweaking in some scenes to provide the desired effect including some richer greens in forests, as well as some black and white scenes.
It must be said though that the film has a deliberate change in video quality. Some scenes have been intentionally degraded with film artifacts and dirt, other scenes are intentionally heavily grainy, other scenes are every big the ultra clean and sharp image we expect from recent Hollywood productions. This would be a result of filming on a mixture of 16mm and 30mm film stock, as well as post production work.
The only other soundtrack on this disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 640kbps. While it gets the job done it doesn't sound anywhere near as good as the lossless track, although it is still a good effort in its own right. Subtitles are only provided in English for the Hearing Impaired.
The Blu-Ray disc of I'm Not There includes quite a few extras, and while they are in standard definition, fans of the movie should be pleased.
Audio Commentary with Director Todd Haynes: It's clear that Todd Haynes has a love for the subject matter and he has plenty of information to impart about the making of this film and the various facets of Bob Dylan's life.
Director's Q&A (15:32): A great sit down Q&A with the director and audience members which covers some interesting topics about the making of, and the themes in, this movie.
'Subterranean Homesick Blues' Music Videos (17:25): A music video with all the stars of the movie using the cards with the key terms throughout the song. It's available in the long version (2:15), short version (1:19/HD) or Individual Cast Versions (13:51).
The Making of I'm Not There (15:17): While short this is still quite an interesting look at the making of the film including using six actors to portray Bob Dylan.
Extended/Alternate Scenes (18:29): Four extended scenes are presented here including Tombstone, Hattie Carol, Going to Acapulco, and Pressing On.
Heath Ledger Montage (3:07): A nice little selection of scenes featuring Heath Ledger in memory since his passing only a month after this film was released.
Blooper Reel (4:02): A blooper reel with various goofs, mistakes and mucking around on set. Entertaining, but don't expect anything revolutionary.
A Conversation with Todd Haynes (40:48): This really is one of the highlights of the feature package, so it was bemusing to see it tucked away on the second page of extras. This is a series of interviews cobbled together into a 40 minute discussion of the film. Quite interesting.
Making The Soundtrack (20:12): Given the extensive use of music throughout this film it was great to see this detailed featurette about recording the music for the film.
Premiere Footage (2:40): Short interviews and footage from the red carpet at the premiere of this film in New York.
Photo Gallery: A photo gallery with 71 images from the films production.
Review By: Dave Warner