“I’m Not There,” review by Susan Granger

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If you’ve ever been curious about experimental cinema, this is it.

Inspired by the tumultuous life and music of Bob Dylan, it’s a kaleidoscopic, non-linear meditation with little coherence. Eccentric Dylan, called by six different names, is played by six different actors – of different races and genders – each representing a phase in his chaotic life.

Dylan’s childhood is embodied by an 11 year-old African-American runaway (Marcus Carl Franklin) calling himself ‘Woody Guthrie’ in homage to the legendary musician. Riding in railroad box-cars with hoboes, he endears himself to them – and others – playing guitar.

Growing up, he becomes cryptic poet Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Wishaw) and Jack (Christian Bale), a ‘protest’ singer in Greenwich Village, whose lover is activist/folksinger Alice Fabian (Julianne Moore); Jack re-appears later as born-again Pastor John.

Then there’s Robbie (Heath Ledger), a New York actor who’s in love with French painter Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). When success overwhelms, he morphs into swaggering, drugged-out Jude Quinn (Cate Blanchett) and eventually becomes a reclusive outlaw (Richard Gere).

Writer/director Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven”), working with writer Oren Kaufman, assumes a knowledge of Dylan that some audience members may lack, so I suspect it will appeal, primarily, to Dylan devotees.

Cate Blanchett’s androgynous performance is most memorable; ironically, she’s the only one who truly captures Dylan’s mannerisms. And Bruce Greenwood scores as an exasperated British journalist voicing my exact thoughts: “I’m not sure I follow.”

The photography and editing are commendable and the actors mainly lip-sync Dylan’s songs, so the soundtrack incorporates the work many musicians. Only at the conclusion does one glimpse the real Dylan on the harmonica. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “I’m Not There” is a bizarre, discordant, surreal 6 – definitely not a mainstream movie.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.