Authenticity the perfect costume

Two excerpts from This Is Not a Bob Dylan Movie by Robert Sullivan, New York Times Magazine, 7 October 2007:

“Haynes began his one page [summary of his idea for Bob Dylan’s approval] with a Rimbaud quote, Rimbaud being a subject he figured he and Dylan were both familiar with. It was a quote that if he were pitching a film in Hollywood might have killed the project: “I is another.” Then came the Scaduto quote about Dylan creating new identities. Then the pitch, two paragraphs: “If a film were to exist in which the breadth and flux of a creative life could be experienced, a film that could open up as oppose to consolidating what we think we already know walking in, it could never be within the tidy arc of a master narrative. The structure of such a film would have to be a fractured one, with numerous openings and a multitude of voices, with its prime strategy being one of refraction, not condensation. Imagine a film splintered between seven separate faces — old men, young men, women, children — each standing in for spaces in a single life.””

“Haynes generally makes films one of two ways: either with a story line or as a collage of ideas; the latter he once compared to painting while high. “I used to love getting stoned, playing music, getting lost in that canvas and not knowing what it was going to be,” he has said. The Dylan movie, he determined, would be that kind of film. He clipped photos, painted paintings, made cards filled with quotes from Dylan, from the Old Testament, the New Testament. “I will open my mouth in parables,” Haynes copied down from the Gospel of Matthew. “I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.” He copied down pages and pages of quotes from social commentaries, from folk songs, from Dylan songs. In one of his notebooks, under the heading “governing concepts/themes,” he wrote: “America obsessed with authenticity/authenticity the perfect costume/America the land of masks, costumes, self-transformation, creativity is artificial, America’s about false authenticity and creativity.” For Robbie, Heath Ledger’s Dylan, whose on-screen marriage (to Charlotte Gainsbourg) fails, he wrote, “A relationship doomed to a long stubborn protraction (not unlike Vietnam, which it parallels).” The notes themselves can seem like a great cache of insider art, printed out with nice fonts, with colors and graphics, reeking of time spent cramming. “I feel like anytime I’ll work on a film, it’s like a giant dissertation, a gigantic undertaking, and this is probably the biggest one,” Haynes told me. “Probably the Ph.D.””

Ben Whishaw as Arthur in I’m Not There, Todd Haynes (2007)



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