Todd Haynes’ film is perhaps the most curious cinematic experiment in many a moon, a stylish, bizarre emotional biography of the many lives and personalities of Bob Dylan. The film employs 6 actors to portray one of the most influential and fascinatingly enigmatic musical figures of the 20th century. There’s the little black boy (Marcus Carl Franklin) who says he’s Woody Guthrie; and Jack Rollins (Christian Bale), the Greenwich Village folk singer. There’s Robbie (Heath Ledger), the rebellious Hollywood actor who settles down into rocky marriage (to a lovely French girl played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) and family life, and an actor (Richard Gere), who essentially represents Dylan appearing in Sam Peckinpah’s “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.” We get a 5th Dylan in the form of an elusive young man (Ben Whishaw from Tom Tykwer’s “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”) submitting to a probing interview. However, it is Cate Blanchett (yes, she!) in a “Fellini’s 8 1/2”-inspired sequence, who makes the greatest impression as Jude, a version of Dylan during the transition from acoustic to electric guitar and folk to folk-rock, succumbing to drug-induced shakes,  suffering accusations of betrayal from his biggest fans and confusion from everyone else around him, except perhaps the poet Allen Ginsbourg (David Cross). The point, I think, is that Dylan (or any artist, for that matter) could never be pinned down, and that a career like this has a rather schizophrenic whiplash-inducing quality, always weaving and bobbing, never standing still in one persona for too long. Todd Haynes (“Far from Heaven,” “Velvet Goldmine”) thusly hasn’t made a literal biography, but more of a spiritual one, capturing the many moods and styles of his subject, without ever referring to his characters by their “true” name. The film this most reminded me of in an odd way was Todd Solondz’s “Palindromes” (2005), which gave us 8 different actors to play a 13 year old pregnant girl in various scenarios involving the potential for abortion. In the end, this is rather a fascinating exercise in the investigation of a life and career, intriguing and very well-done.


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