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NYFF: “I’m Not There.”

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"I'm sorry for everything I've done and I hope to remedy it soon."
We’re barely literate in Bob Dylanese, so a fair amount of Todd Haynes"I’m Not There" went over our head, or dodged past us when we weren’t looking, or bulldozed us and left us for dead. It’s a tricky beast, Haynes’ fractured biopic, which tries to present a glimpse of the elusive Dylan through the prisms of different personas but ends up being, as you might expect, more revealing about Haynes himself. Given that most of the storylines refer only obliquely to periods and themes in Dylan’s life, non-Dylan devotees may sometimes feel like they’re watching a French sitcom in a room full of chuckling Francophones with only a few years of high school Spanish with which to decipher what’s going on. Still, for the most part, "I’m Not There" is just fine, an uneven, ambitious, flawed attempt at circumventing all of the conventions of putting someone’s life onto the screen.

The Dylans are, in approximate order of importance: Jude (Cate Blanchett), "Dont Look Back"-era Dylan going electric at the "New England Jazz and Folk Festival" and dueling with reporters while on tour in England; Billy (Richard Gere), formerly "the Kid," whiling away his days in hiding in rural and presumably early 1900s Missouri; Robbie (Heath Ledger), an actor who finds fame from his role in a biopic of a vanished folk singer named Jack; Woody (Marcus Carl Franklin), an improbable musical prodigy living the life of a ’30s hobo despite it being the late ’50s; Jack himself (Christian Bale), seen through the lens of an investigative documentary style; and Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Whishaw), a poet under interrogation. Blanchett’s gotten the most attention, and it’s all deserved — she’s riveting as Dylan at his most iconic, a chain-smoking, hopped-up, charismatic mess who’s sometimes a right bastard and other times tremblingly vulnerable, muttering "I’ve just got to clean up a little bit, and I’ll be fine." The film’s a billion times more alive in the Jude segments than it is elsewhere, maybe because it’s the storyline that directly engages in Haynes’ treasured topics of fame and the cultivated persona. Jude, fending off betrayed fans who stare down the camera in anguish, trailing after and then chasing away an Edie Sedgwick character (Michelle Williams), verbally disemboweling a friend at a party just because he can, always threatened to shake apart with the effort of remaining in the limelight, particularly when a certain BBC reporter (Bruce Greenwood) thinks he has Jude pinned. But there’s no solving a person (something we’re reminded when Greenwood turns up again as a failed, old Pat Garrett to Gere’s supposedly slain Billy), and "I’m Not There" also refuses to pin Dylan down, leaving the film with a strange central absence. The other Dylan figures are just ideas, the worst — Billy — an awkward, embarrassing, half-formed metaphor. Robbie is the only other one to stand out. His story is a straightforward if not clichéd one of a marriage crumbling (the most inexplicable — a summation of Dylan’s treatment of the women in his life?), but flashbacks to scenes set in Greenwich Village in the ’60s are aglow with melancholy nostalgia. It’s clear what era, scene and section of his subject’s life Haynes is most attracted to, and just as clear that he felt the need to diffuse that energy into other concepts that just don’t work when put on screen, all for the sake of this "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Musical Icon" conceit. It’s a great conceit, but it’s better in theory than in practice, and better in "Velvet Goldmine" than here, alas.

"I’m Not There" screens October 4 at 8:30pm and October 6 at 10am at Frederick
P. Rose Hall. It opens November 16th in limited release from Magnolia.

+ "I’m Not There" (FilmLinc)
+ "I’m Not There" (IMDb)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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