Saturday, November 24, 2007

I is an Arthur

I'm Not There is terrific. The idea, I suppose, is to play Bob Dylan as a series of covers, and part of the frisson of the film is to watch Dylan's doubles, despite their will-to-elusiveness, to fiction and Rimbaudian auto-exile, coalesce into the mise-en-scene of the all-familiar album covers, the all-familiar quotes, the freeze frame of celebrity. "The individual who in the service of the spectacle is placed in stardom's spotlight is in fact the opposite of an individual, and as clearly the enemy of the individual in himself as of the individual in others. In entering the spectacle as a model to be identified with, he renounces all autonomy in order himself to be identified with, he renounces all autonomy in order himself to identify with the general law of obedience to the course of things." That's the rub, no?

I'm still trying to work through Todd Haynes's gambit with regard to minstrelsy in Dylan (and American music generally). Casting the teenaged Dylan as a twelve-year-old black boy (the terrific Marcus Carl Franklin) named Woody Guthrie, Haynes might succeed in indicating the distance between the young Robert Zimmerman's self-fashioning and the actual experience of African-Americans incarnated, freely or not, in American music. Or not.

And wasn't this, also, what Godard was trying to work out in his own problematic way in Sympathy for the Devil, by juxtaposing The Stones' appropriated blues with the Black Panthers' training for an armed reappropriation? In fact, I'm pretty sure the scene where Blanchett-as-Dylan chases Michelle Williams's Edie Sedgwick character through a winding English garden is an allusion to the great All About Eve vignette in the Godard film: "He doesn't want to answer?" "No." "You're calling LeRoi Jones?" "Yes." "Or Cassius Clay?" "Yes." "Or Rap Brown?" "Yes." Yes I said yes.