<i>I’m Not There</i> Is No <i>All You Need Is Cash</i>
This isn’t the first time we’ve ragged on I’m Not There, Todd Haynes’ all-star rumination on all things Dylan, but as it’s just been released on DVD and I haven’t seen much of a critical backlash, I figured its nose deserves another tweak. The New York Times felt Haynes threw “a Molotov cocktail through the facade of the Hollywood biopic factory” by willfully screwing with the specifics Dylan’s career, but fictionalizing the life of a pop star for your own purposes is nothing new. In fact, there’s a TV movie from the ’70s that equally reveled in ’60s iconography, while revealing a little more about the music itself and throwing in a bunch of jokes to boot. Maybe not taking their marvelous meta seriously is why The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash doesn’t get the same boot-licking treatment I’m Not There is enjoying.
If you’re going to skim images from documentaries and put them on a tilt-a-whirl with famous actors, why is it better to include surrealism involving Richard Gere and a town full of dwarfs rather than treating the cameos like cameos and playing it for laughs? If you’ve got Richard Gere staring across the horizon on a horse with no name and you’re not trying to crack me up, how could you possibly be making something good? Why cast David Cross as Allen Ginsberg if you’re not going to have him be funny? There are two reasons to dress up Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan. One is comedy, and the other is Oscar bait. I’m more inclined to respect the former.
I don’t know how someone who didn’t already like Dylan could get into his music after watching I’m Not There and seeing so much earnest superficiality, but the truly award-worthy musical homages that fill The Rutles are only improved by the light mood. I can see how Dylanologists and folks entranced by the bard’s hair could get off on I’m Not There’s “the point is there is no point, man” jive, but fans of Dylan’s music are basically given this:
And how is that preferable to (or even more evocative of its subject than) this?