I had no desire to see this movie, really, especially since we'd all rolled out for the Bob a couple of years back with Martin Scorsese's documentary "No Direction Home: Bob Dylan" -- broadcast on PBS about the same time as the autobiography "Chronicles, Volume One" came out (let's hope there's a "Two"). A few too many intriguing reviews for Haynes' film had me down at the new Arclight cinema, enjoying almost every minute of the 2-hour-plus show.
"I'm Not There" doesn't inspire easy description, nor will it do you much good to read one. Cate Blanchett's performance makes her character by far the most compelling of the six sort-of Dylans. Forget that she's a she, it's not a factor -- all of these Dylans wandered in from Highway 61 anyway. (Now there's another Dylan docu in theaters.)
Nothing out there is likely to top Scorsese's "No Direction Home: Bob Dylan," available on a Paramount double-disc DVD. The docu should be subtitled something like "Bob Dylan, 1960-65."
The film starts off in Ken Burns territory, using a rich and exquisite mix of vintage sounds and images to track Robert Zimmerman of Hibbing, Minn., as he moves to New York and becomes folk singer Bob Dylan.
The documentary ends a half-decade later, with a speed-jacked-hollow-eyed Dylan rocking back and forth on a couch repetitively, as if he'd been dusted with autism. "Traitor!" they had yelled at him one too many nights. "I just want to go home," the shellshocked rock star moans.
"I was born very far from where I'm supposed to be," Dylan says as the 3 1/2-hour docu opens. "So maybe I'm on my way home."
Dylan acts as his own witness throughout -- at ease, clear, sometimes funny and seemingly pleased to take control of his legend.
"I don't feel like I had a past," Dylan says, but the assembled evidence proves otherwise. Part 1 unspools much like a video companion to Dylan's book, which covers his years on the Greenwich Village folk scene, the epicenter of American hip in the early 1960s.
"No Direction Home" becomes A Film by Martin Scorsese in its dark concluding act. Like the director's "Mean Streets" and "GoodFellas," it captures the paranoia and disintegration as the central character's life implodes.
Read the complete "No Direction Home" DVD review.