How’s it going? I know we spoke on the phone last night and I know we discussed plans to get together and hash out some serious stuff, but I miss the private, personal communications we used to have here, in public. I’ve got something I’d like to discuss. Man to man.
I just tried watching a half hour of a movie I’ve put off watching for the last couple of years, a movie I’ve repeatedly been tempted to watch, I’m Not Here, the Dylan movie by Todd Haynes, who’s directed a couple of films I like a lot, especially Safe, that one with Julianne Moore, before she broke through by dropping trou in that Robert Altman flick. Have you seen it? (The Dylan movie, that is.)
Earlier this week I saw the last 15 minutes. Combined with the 30 minutes in the middle of the film I just watched, I guess I’ve seen half of the movie. I’m not digging it.
“Cate Blanchett‘s performance is amazing!” I can hear a friend or two itching to tell me.
Yeah, she does a good impersonation of Dylan at his most iconic, the Dylan from Don’t Look Back, a movie I thought was about the coolest rock-doc on earth when I was in my early 20s but have found less “cool” and more damming as years go by. Sure, Cate gets bonus points by being a woman playing a guy. I’m sick of that Dylan, or more to the point, I’m sick of thinking of myself in my early 20s, thinking that Dylan was the bee’s knees while I was surrounded by a roomful of aspiring hipsters also wanting so desperately to be a cool dick. Looking back on that time in my life it was easy being a dick. Even being mildly cool wasn’t that hard. Having talent and fame to go with those qualities was another matter.
Being a cool dick didn’t make up for what I lacked. And to tell the truth it wasn’t all I was after in whenever I holed up in my room and spun Dylan records. I wanted to get to the heart of the matter in my own affairs, the way Dylan is so good at doing in his music. Dylan in Don’t Look Back without the music is just a dick, not even that cool: unable to look anyone in the eyes, jittery and coiled up anywhere but on stage. Johnny Cash was cool. He could look a bad guy down in his tracks. What was the Dylan of that period going to do if Donovan had had the stones to sock it to him? Would Bobby Neuwirth have had to jump in and take down the tiny Scotsman? That’s not cool!
“Dylan’s totally cool; you’re more square than I already thought, Mod.” I hear someone muttering. “You and your weird admiration for ‘Kokomo.'”
Dylan was—he is—but from what I’ve seen the half dozen Dylans in I’m Not Here play into all that myth-making that I long ago exhausted. The 45 minutes I’ve seen of this movie (granted, out of sequence) do not compare to the experience I would get from a single spin of “I Don’t Believe You,” my personal favorite album cut. That’s cool. That’s meaningful. That’s Dylan.
The Dylans in this movie strike me as a reflection of “You”—not you, my friend, but the general You that’s out there on the edges of the fields in which we play. The You we’ve been ourselves. You’re not cool. I don’t want to be like You.
Seeing well-shot montages of actors dressing up in their Dylan duds, spouting off imagined dialog is for the birds, or should I say The Kidz. Seeing the singer from My Morning Jacket, I believe, in whiteface and a hobo hat on a country fair stage with a band of musicians dressed up in Civil War threads is what my life strove to be at 21. Man, I wanted that to be my cool, but it wasn’t happening. It had happened already. To someone else. Not me.
We don’t need to bother getting into Richard Gere, do we?