Director: Todd Haynes
Year Released: 2007
Haynes deconstructs the very idea of a biographical movie by dividing the central 'character' - the musician Bob Dylan - into six seemingly different pieces, each played by a different actor. Though the approach is intriguing, the pastiche is only semi-effective, never really fusing into an illuminating portrait of either artistic identity (what goes into what we are but the influences on us - Arthur Rimbaud or Woody Guthrie in Bob's case - or the people we associate with?) or the evolution of genius over a long and remarkable career. The most compelling component of the film is the Dylan of his Don't Look Back days and androgynous Cate Blanchett's version of him in twitchy self-righteous mode; the most obscure is Richard Gere's entry as an aging Billy the Kid (which is a fusion of modern day Dylan and a reference to his roles in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid as well as Masked and Anonymous). The avant-garde approach to biography is nothing revolutionary - 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould took a fragmented approach to the life of the eccentric Canadian pianist, but director Francois Girard was less ambitious than Haynes (only one man played Gould) and, in a way, more focused (not that I'm privileging focus over ambition in all cases) - nor is the casting of a woman to play a male character (also see Linda Hunt in The Year of Living Dangerously). The title's admission of self-negation is dead-on.