I’m Not There – FELIX, Victor

I usually take notes as I watch our films in class, but since the screening of I’m Not There was our last I thought it might be decent to try something new and to just sit and enjoy the film. It is all together different when you immerse yourself in the film as opposed to analyzing it. True enough, keeping my mind blank was a good way to approach the film.

If the opening credits didn’t mention that this was a film about Bob Dylan, I might have mistaken the film to be just about the era of the 50’s and the 60’s, specifically about the emergence of folk. I might have found a bit of connections between the six stories, but nothing completely tangible or significant. Since, however, it was mentioned, I had to do a bit of thinking. I know Bob Dylan from a few of his songs, like “The Times are a-Changing”, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, and “Like a Rolling Stone” (my personal favorite), and that he had a radical stance when it came to politics of the 60’s, but that was about it.

Approaching the film as a biographical piece of work might be too ambitious, since I know nothing about the man. But if I see the six stories as a fictionalized portion of his life, then it meshes together quite nicely. My favorite of the six would have to be that of Jude Quinn and Billy the Kid. Much like Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds, Cate Blanchett stole the show and made the movie for me. Her acting was spot on and extremely believable. If I didn’t know that she starred in the film I might have never recognized her. True enough, she received a cabinet-full of awards for her role as supporting actress. Billy’s story, on the other hand, afforded satisfaction because it excellently portrayed the beauty of America’s countryside, not to mention that his particular segment makes the story go full circle (I’ve always enjoyed books or films which do this). When Billy picks up the guitar of Woody Guthrie and dusts it off, and then his monologue about freedom starts, the ending just unfolds itself.

What I enjoyed most about the film was its soundtrack. I really find the sound of folk to be the most mellow, more so than lounge, ambient electronic, or even classical. For the most part of the film, the characters are seen to be in some form of hardship or infringement, but the presence of folk music in the background just diffuses warmth and optimism. It resonates well into the soul, much like how jazz would. The soundtrack also aided in the story of Jack Rollins, in that you could really sense the budding of folk while you hear and see it.

More than just folk music, the film talks about the pursuit of freedom. As mentioned, the characters act is if they are continuously avoiding something, or are dreading something. This is shown literally when we see that Woody and Billy are on the run from authorities. The fact that the characters implicitly depicting the life of Bob Dylan are continuously changing reflect the very process in which Bob Dylan tried to achieve his own freedom: continuously evolving and never stagnant. With no ties to a typical form of identity, one can attain a sense of weightlessness and space. Folk is directly related to this, since it is anti-establishment and more of a grassroots movement.

The film doesn’t get into the specifics of Bob Dylan’s life, but it does offer a relatively good idea of how his life was lived at the time of his efflorescence. The man was revolutionary and he sparked a generation of youngsters into realizing the evils of industrialism and consumerist culture. Ultimately, folk is an expression of the life of people living in a community. They simply coexist seamlessly, not a care in the world about profit, or commodity, or war efforts, or pop culture. Dylan believed that going back to one’s roots is the key to self-actualization, and by going full circle the film shows this perfectly. All in all, the film was a refreshing dose of conventional cinema after all of the avant-garde works we’ve been seeing. It referenced a lot of the earlier films we’ve seen and so I think it was a good way to tie up the whole class. The song played in the credits was just the cherry on top.


I’m Not There – DE LEON, Pristine

There was one line in “I’m not There” that presented a juxtaposition of folk and pop music. Its assertion is mainly: Pop music is controlled as it is run and dictated by society while folk music is simply honest. I would have to agree. By saying that folk music is honest as it is compared to pop music, it puts forward the assumptions that there is a lack of sincerity in Pop music. For one song to be popular, a significant number of individuals must be able to relate to. With this in mind, musicians tweak the lyrics of the pop song until it becomes relatable to majority. Sincerity suffers in the process.

What it says about art is that, above all, it must reflect something of the artist. Of course, a piece of artwork does reflect or express a portion of a general humanity but the artist must still have its imprint on his work.

In this film, we are given a peak into that soul infused in the artwork. Here, it isn’t only one but many characters who signify only one individual—the artist who is not visibly there. That is probably the idea behind the enigmatic title. Bob Dylan, for whom the movie is a tribute, is not there. With Bob Dylan being the “I” in “I’m Not There,” it suggest that his is the voice that dominates the entire movie. He is the one speaking though paradoxically, his actual voice can’t be heard.

If he is no one in the movie, he is everyone. His presence is ever more magnified by his absence.

This paradox that inflicts the movie shines light on the personality of the artist, the prominent subject on which the film is centered. It may tell that one artist represents all of humanity. And it can also pertain to all of humanity lives in the artist.

Again, the movie poses a multiplicity of questions that can be patterned to the analogy of the juxtaposition between folk and pop music. I have mentioned the notion that his presence is felt more intensely in his absence. But let me present somewhat of an antithesis: If the artist is everyone, if he represents the majority like the musician of pop music, could that mean that he has lost his identity? In this light, the title, “I’m Not There,” could be refigured to denote that in the art of the artist, he expresses every human being but himself.

Along this discussion, one can raise the issue of alienation that is experienced by the artist. When he becomes popular—as Bob Dylan was considered a big-time figure in the industry and as Jude Quinn in the film is described later on as “conforming to popular taste, he loses the sense of intimacy with his art. In the film, if the young Woodie Guthrie and the “wasted” Jude Quinn were both supposed to portray Bob Dylan, then this difference of character implies a radical change in the personality of the artist as he increasingly becomes part of the industry.

In contrast to before when his art was simply sincere, there now lies a rupture separating the artist from his artwork. Those who occupies the rupture may include his family, his audience, some or a million of strangers he would never know. These can be the people he gives voice to.

Perhaps, in that context, one may see differently what the artist means when he says “I’m Not There.”


I’m Not There – YAP, Alaine

This last film we watched, I enjoyed. I enjoy films that open you up to new ideas and makes you think. This film was able to do that to me. The beliefs and ideas that the different characters had were interesting. From what I’ve seen in the film and read on some online articles, these different characters’ lives are all parts of Bob Dylan’s own life which is who the film was really about.

My favorite character would have to be Woody – the boy who was out of his own age. He was such a free-spirit who knew about what was going on around him and is not afraid to join in or sing it out. I bet he was a fine lad to talk to. It was sad that he was kept in a juvenile facility. His face, when the call came from the facility looking for him, was just heartbreaking. Christian Bale, as Jack Rollins, I loved. Simply because it was Christian Bale and he was cute so I was kind of biased with that. And then there was Heath Ledger who immediately turned my mind’s focus to the Dark Knight film.

Okay, while watching the film and after seeing the character of Jude, I was already unsure of him. All throughout the film I kept staring and watching his every move. And then it hit me, I saw in the opening credits Cate Blanchett’s name. Jude was played by Cate Blanchett. And I assume she was really meant to portray a guy’s role. I was blown away at this realization. I was so amazed at her performance. I can’t even explain how much I was astounded.

I wasn’t able to grasp everything about the film. There were some dialogues I missed, some points I didn’t digest properly. I think I would have appreciated it more if I were a fan of Bob Dylan. But just a normal viewer like me would be able to appreciate the stories told in the film. From it I could already tell that he was a very deep person, not conventional, and quite interesting. I found his whole story very bittersweet. His relationship with his wife I found very disappointing but obviously he was a loving father to his children, to the way he found enlightenment in Christianity. I’m not sure if Bob Dylan really has a drug problem like how Jude is portrayed, but that part’s sort of sad as well like what happens to most artists. I hope he doesn’t end up in an apartment somewhere dead on the floor because of it. That would just be too cliché. And to think he’s not one to conform.

I would definitely love to watch this movie again. But I would probably read up on some Bob Dylan facts first just to fill in some contingent difficulties I had while watching the film. In summary, I think showing this as our last film in class was a good idea. It wasn’t dragging, boring, nor anything negative. It was actually quite interesting and fun and I enjoyed it a lot. Even the way the film was shot was, for me, perfect in every way.