November-December 2007

SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR:

A REVIEW OF I’M NOT THERE

By Ross Altman

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When they made a movie about Woody Guthrie they didn’t think twice—they put in This Land Is Your Land. When they made a movie about Johnny Cash they didn’t think twice—they put in I Walk the Line. When they made a movie about Buddy Holly they didn’t think twice—they put in Peggy Sue. And when they made a movie about Ray Charles they didn’t think twice—they put in Georgia On My Mind. So I’m sure filmmaker Todd Haynes thought twice about leaving Don’t Think Twice out of his new Bob Dylan movie I’m Not There

Dylan should have been there. He might have said something about the laser like focus on his drug-addled arrogant put-downs of the unfortunate BBC reporter who made the mistake of asking him some serious and sincere questions. He might have wondered why they made him out to be a consistent SOB towards those he purported to love, and he might have suggested they give Pete Seeger a better part than going pit bull psycho-ward crazy at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival where Dylan went electric—when Pete has always maintained he did not pick up an ax and try to cut the mike cables.

But Bob Dylan wasn’t there—it says so in the title. So what we are left with are six characters—caricatures may be more like it—in search of an author. Pirandello would have loved it, and especially enjoyed the irony of Haynes’ production company’s name: Endgame Productions, a nod to Samuel Beckett’s theatre of the absurd masterpiece.

Clearly the reason this absurdist movie works—despite its many distortions and outright fabrications—is the remarkable work of 11 year-old African-American actor Marcus Carl Franklin as a young Bob Dylan pretending to be Woody Guthrie—who even calls himself “Woody Guthrie