Saturday, November 22, 2008

I'm Not There (and Neither am I)

One reason I've avoided listening to Bob Dylan over the years has been the hero worship of the man. It always seemed his music was shackled to his myth. After hearing of Dylan showing up unannounced at Neil Young's childhood Winnipeg home, my curiosity was piqued. What was I missing? I picked up one of those double-CD sets of Dylan tunes (part of the "Essential" series); maybe not a "definitive" Dylan, but probably a fair sampling from the Dylan canon. At the same time I also downloaded the entire 4-CD set of The Police: Message in a Box. The Complete Recordings.

I say this just for comparison sakes. When I was fourteen, The Police were my favorite band. Now, some 20 or 30mumbling-cough-cough or so years later I couldn't get through the first CD (and the first 2 CDs are their best stuff when Sting et al were still doing something kinda fresh; Punk + Blue-eyed Reggae). Needless to say, Martin Scorsese won't be doing any Police Rock-umentaries. But I can't get enough of Robert Zimmerman's nasal mumble.

They say things happen in three's so when I saw "I'm Not There", the Tom Haynes film ostensibly about Dylan, on the shelf at the video store I thought, "omnia causa fiunt" (okay, I didn't think something I can't pronounce, but I did think everything happens for a reason). I'd heard so much about both Cate Blanchett's and Bruce Greenwood's performances I thought that alone would be the reason to see this film. And it was (maybe). I still don't understand why anyone would need to mythologize an artist who has proven very able at mythologizing himself but they do. The movie is aimless, rambling, purposeless, and wholly unnecessary and impenetrable. I'm still not sure Blanchett's remarkably natural take on the grand-folky-rocker actually is worth the price of admission.

I still don't understand the near deification of Dylan but if you're interested in how a skinny guy from Minnesota became the American icon, Bob Dylan, you're better off seeing No Direction Home which chronicles the years that saw Dylan become the "voice of a generation" — a raspy, carefully constructed voice of a dreaming, acid-dropping generation.



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