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Touched by the hand of Todd
Six Dylans for the price of one is the deal as maverick filmmaker Todd Haynes zooms in on the big Zim.
Tara Brady, 20 Dec 2007
Once in a very long while a film explodes onto the screen and rewrites all the certainties of its medium. When it happens, chances are, you’re watching a movie by Todd Haynes. An audacious and impressively mutable directing talent, Mr. Haynes has given us a wondrously discombobulating portrait of the ‘worried well’ (Safe) and a marvellous Karen Carpenter biopic re-enacted with Barbie dolls (Superstar). He has deconstructed the tropes of queer cinema with a nod to the paranoid sci-fi of the ’50s (Poison) and plundered the Sirkian melodrama with the superlative Far From Heaven.
I’m Not There, Mr. Haynes’ latest picture is, however, a real doozy even by his iconoclastic standards. An unlikely and spectacular delve into the life and times of one Bob Dylan, the film is a perfect collision between two of the world’s most archly mercurial artists, its director and subject. It is not, however, a particularly obvious career choice for a filmmaker who emerged from the radical queer cinema of the ’80s.
“I know but that was part of the appeal,” says Haynes. “I like keeping people on their toes. I like that I arrived at Dylan myself and thought maybe I need to take a second look at this guy. But if you’re a woman Dylanologist or a gay Dylanologist there comes a point when you have to explain how and why. Just by being yourself you pose a challenge to a kind of white male heterosexual dominance or orthodoxy, a kind of ownership if you like. And he himself is a challenge to that. It’s impossible to affirm your own identity through him in the normal way that hero-worship or fandom works. That process can only fall apart completely. Dylan will not confirm anyone’s identity. He will appear in front of your eyes but when you try to grab hold of him, he’ll fly away.”
Todd Haynes was in the process of moving from New York to Portland, Oregon when it all started. Having adopted Bob Dylan’s ‘She’s Your Lover Now’ as the official anthem of his uprooting, he suddenly found he wanted nothing more than to dive into the entire Bob Dylan back catalogue.