6 or 7 Dylans? Oh no! What does it mean?!

I saw the ‘biopic’ “I’m Not There” in a theatre when it came out, the imaginative retelling of the Bob Dylan story/mythology/sociological/cultural phenomenon. It kind of all went by in a blur. Dylan was portrayed by 6 different actors as 6 different seperate “characters”.

I watched it again on DVD a couple of days ago, and got slightly more into it. Then I watched it again with director/co-writer/auteur Todd Haynes’ commentary.

Wow! The sheer poetry of Dylan – and Haynes’ erudite study, astute and perceptive analysis – just blew me away. By the end of it I was bawling at the sheer inspiration and visceral connection I felt to the music; to Haynes’ vision and empathy; and to all that the music and story meant to people of my era – or anyone that’s ever been touched by it.

I thought I knew a lot about Dylan (at least, beyond the mysteries of his art and genius.) Haynes’ commentary really revealed a lot to me, though. His commentary during the last two scenes and through the end credits might serve as a good introduction to anyone that is slightly baffled by the kaleidoscopic, impressionistic imagery of the movie.

I was moved to transcribe Haynes summation over the end credits. I found it quite moving, inspiring, and a creative muse. If you’re a Dylan fan and haven’t checked it out; if you like the transcription; if you want to be inspired – it’s worth checking it out for yourself. All I can say is Amen! It’s good to hear a storyteller that knows what they’re on about!

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“…When Dylan was hearing “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” on playback [while recording Blonde On Blonde], he said, ‘Now that is religious music! That is religious carnival music. I just got that real old time religious carnival sound there, didn’t I?

“I’m just so happy, I can’t believe I have a movie that ends with ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’!……” [Hearing the comments and the music together was powerful!]

“We held off [using] ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ until the end, just to keep people in their seats”    [‘Like A Rolling Stone’ kicks in as the credits roll.]

“……The theme of freedom is something that they talked about a lot in the Sixties. ‘Only the man that says ‘No’ is free,’ to paraphrase Melville. And DH Lawrence said, ‘Men are not free when they’re doing what they like. The moment you just do what you like, there’s nothing you care about doing.’

“I really wanted to talk about freedom from identity; and I think that’s really what Bob Dylan stands for; and that’s sort of what the ultimate message is to this film.

“He said,  ‘You’ve got to be strong and stay connected to what started it all, the inspiration behind the inspiration; to who you were when people didn’t mind stepping on you. I tried, I guess, in my own mind to separate aliveness from deadness; to not let all the namers and blamers boundary it all up. But no one’s free, even the birds are chained to the sky.’

“Tony Scaduto, who wrote one of the first biographies [of Dylan] said that he built a new identity every step of the way in order to escape identity.

“In the final quotes from that great period where he was playing with structure – yesterday, today and tomorrow are all in the same room (from the “Blood On the Tracks” period.) Because I think all great works of art, philosophy, science start to challenge linear time and favor relativity, and that’s what Dylan was doing in his songs. And that’s what I tried to do in my movie. I mean, it was really an attempt to embrace what was radical about Dylan, what was experimental about Dylan.

“The fact that it [Dylan’s music] remains so popular and drew an audience and drew the following of an entire generation doesn’t disprove how radical it was. The genuine weirdness of Dylan I think is something you can’t forget; and that’s really at the root of what he’s doing. [‘Weirdness’ relates back to what was said earlier about the weirdness of the cultural mix of America, itself.] But that’s where he’s combining high and low art – that’s where he’s made something beautiful out of the juke box, you know. And he’s never compromised; whether he’s failed or succeeded – he’s just done what he had to do, and I tried to do that in this film.

“And we were lucky because we had support; we had amazing artistic collaboration; we had great critical response on this movie. And I think that it’s a movie that will live on. And I think it’s a movie that really does respect its subject and try to get to the core of its subject.”

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