17
Sep 09

My Ten Favourite Films Of 2008: 7: I’m Not There (& W.)

Do You See + FTPost a comment • 196 views

Biopics. Nearly always rubbish right? I can’t be doing with their sanding down of the rough edges of life to turn them into some sort of narrative that makes sense. Whose life has an arc (Noah excepted and Evan Almighty I guess but he’s not real or any good)? Really the number 7 here is I’m Not There, which I found remarkably entertaining, especially as I normally find Todd Haynes a touch difficult. Look Me, and lots of other people talked about I’m Not There here, and you know what, we’re all still right. I’m Not There is a way of telling a story about a life where the life isn’t as interesting or as important as the music, but is just about interesting enough. The group banality of the six actors playing Dylan point you towards the music, there is an impressionistic centre to the movie but it is constantly distracting you. It is the right way to make a biopic about a slippery creature like Dylan.

Compared to it, W. is as straightforward as you can get. A bog standard selective narrative biopic trying to tell a particular story (namely that George W.Bush had Daddy issues). I’m Not There seems like genius next to W., a film that even lacked the firebrand aggressiveness we expected from Oliver Stone. A cable movie of cheap impressions and half hearted theories made big. And I lapped it up. Why? Because its fag packet theorising is what the subject deserved. I have no time for anyone who calls George W.Bush an idiot, that is too easy a get out. W. doesn’t do this, he just says that W. is as venal and as hopeless as the rest of us – so help us all. Here’s what I said about W. at the time, key quote being “A film designed to please absolutely no-one”.

Biopics are rubbish. But if you are going to make them, make them special. Never ever suggest that what people are seeing has any kind of truth to it. In their own ways, I’m Not There and W. both succeed in doing that, they open a door on their subjects rather than close one.

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