Bob Dylan has been so many personas, so many people, that Todd Haynes’ film uses different actors playing different characters to represent him – the black kid who calls himself Woody Guthrie after the musician, Arthur Rimbaud the precocious teen poet, a movie star who’s lost his way, a folk singer who’s sold out (or not), the born again Christian (briefly) and Billy the Kid.
It is a beautiful film, made with such skill. I was mesmerised by the torrent of images, the unexpected twists, the variety of genres employed. It is a film for film-lovers.
It made me wonder what it takes to be as famous, enduring and influential as Bob Dylan. It made me feel so inadequate in how I’ve lived my own life. I don’t want to be him or even like him, but I would like to have his energy and capacity for adventure.
The part I liked best was the single scene representing Dylan’s born-again phase. He gives an impromptu, incoherent talk to the congregation about Jerusalem and faith and God and then sings this wonderful song from an album I don’t have. It looks just like a church in the 80s, and the idea of the legendary singer playing out his days in a small church is fascinating.
The film doesn’t resolve, though. There’s no climax, and I think there should be. The way Magnolia brings its strands together – just slightly – into a glorious chorus and a plague of frogs. Haynes needed something like that to lift this film from being interesting and inspiring to brilliant.