This unusual biopic definitely gets one into the mystique of Bob Dylan.
I'm Not There is directed by Todd Haynes who likes experimenting in his formal representations of film genres. He certainly did to much effect in the melodrama Far From Heaven.
Like Todd Solondz's Palindromes there are multiple performers (here six) embodying various parts of Dylan's storied career.
Marcus Carl Franklin is Woody in the 50s doing acoustic Arlo Guthrie folk tunes in a boxcar. On the guitar case it reads "This machine kills fascists".
As the 60s unfolds, Jack (Christian Bale) becomes very noticed with politically-intoned folk tunes, keeping a friend and fellow folk artist (Julianne Moore) at a distance.
Heath Ledger is a thespian named Robbie, who does the part of Jack in a biopic. Robbie's fame also puts his wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) on the backburner.
The script, co-written by Haynes, has Jude, done by a standout Cate Blanchett, in the movie's biggest role, leaving the acoustic for the electric guitar in the late 60s. He enjoys the stardom with the Edie Sedgewick-like Coco (Michelle Williams) while irritating a prying British reporter (Bruce Greenwood).
A couple of other incarnations include Ben Whishaws philosophizing Arthur in the mid-60s and later Richard Gere as legendary hero in a foreboding environment.
Haynes understands the changing times, working with his crew to stylize the individual narrative threads, that adds quite a technical luster, whether in lush period hues, archival footage or black-and-white modern realism.
Each of the characters feel like they are truly inhabited, without neglect to their foibles. Ledger lets his talent out in a showy role, and Bale does well in his more limited, reeled depiction. But, the tour de force here belongs to Blanchett who lets out so much with mental and physical agility that makes the politically-incorrect moments resonate.
Haynes uses the interlocking technique in ways that pay homage to the late Robert Altman. I'm Not There may be hard to really get on board with. But, there's a dreamy, unpredictable indulgence to be had, not just with the famous troubadour's most steadfast admirers. Ultimately, the humor and drama adventurously stroke a high note even if, as Jude notes, "something is happening, and you don't know what it is."