Walk the Line, Ray, Control, The Robbie Williams Story (it will come out in our life-time, trust me). We’ve been up to our ear-holes with film biogs of music folk, all following the similar pattern of rise to success – get woman – have success – turn into dickhead – lose woman – die. Maybe with extra bits in-between, but to be honest I’m bored of them. Utterly bored. So up pops another one, this time about Bob Dylan, but this time with a whole new way of doing it. Scrap a linear story and have six different actors play the same guy at different stages in his life. Genius! Even feature a woman and a little boy. More genius!
Yes, director Todd Haynes struck pretentious gold with this one. It has all the makings of a fantastic film. An original format, a central character with oodles of life material to play on, and a handful of striking performances, with a stunning Cate Blanchett winning the acting race by a mile, followed by a surly Heath Ledger and a brooding Christian Bale. The critics were mewing over this film like kittens at the teat of the culture cat.
But here’s my take on it. This film is the equivalent of someone taking all the ingredients necessary to make the best cake in the world, putting them in a big bowl, mixing them all together, but then by-passing the oven that will unite them into a cohesive sponge and instead using the mixture to write a big, obscure Bob Dylan quote all over the wall. Artists and critics will gather and coo at the nonsensical creation, pleased they have something new and Turner-prize-like to try and give their vapid, talentless lives some semblance of meaning and provide a way to continue to unjustly separate themselves from uncultured proles. Meanwhile, I stand at the back of the room, frowning, not really understanding the quote because I don’t know about Bob Dylan. “Hey!” I say, suddenly. “What’s this supposed to be? Why did you do all that? You’ve used all those lovely ingredients and you’ve come up with this? I can’t eat that! Where’s my cake?” at which point the smug critics stop and stare at me, but I’m now too outraged at being deprived a good cake and I say again, but louder, “WHERE’S MY CAKE?”
I don’t get an answer.
So, as I sat in the cinema surrounded by noble Bob Dylan fans nodding sagely at the alienating references, I pondered several things. Why did Dylan name his female dog “Henry”? On the subtitles (we were at a slightly off-putting audio-described screening) why did they need to write “clamouring” to describe a crowd scene? Why could I smell burning toast? Where’s my cake? And was this film ever going to end?
My abstract cake rantings sum up my feelings towards this film, as does the fact that after finally staggering out of the cinema, my friends and I had more discussion over a tabasco sauce advert than the film itself. Though in parts the performances were superb, the film was still at times frustrating, incomprehensible and actually a bit boring. The critics can’t all be wrong, can they? When their opinions differ from Cinemafool, then yes. They can.
I’m Not There saves points in principle, but loses them in practice. So 2008 starts with a downer of CF-1. Things can only get better, though. Right?
And who names a girl dog Henry? Really.