Here’s the lede:
I’m Not There is director Todd Haynes’ third music biopic, after Superstar in 1987 and Velvet Goldmine in 1998. In each of those films, the main subject– the celebrity at the center– has been altered or is somehow absent: Superstar recounted Karen Carpenter’s death from anorexia with only Barbie dolls, which continually prevents it from being officially released. Velvet Goldmine traces David Bowie’s rise and fall throughout the 1970s, but the singer threatened to sue and refused to license his songs. So Haynes took even more liberties with the story, which involved aliens, assassins, and an ongoing affair with Iggy Pop. By all accounts, I’m Not There, his new film about Bob Dylan, continues this sort of meaningful absence, casting six actors to play the folk singer in various stages of his life and career (essentially the same thing), and literalizing the mercurial nature of his identity. Likewise, the soundtrack for I’m Not There casts 29 singers to re-create that singular voice in all its permutations and variations, with surprising results.
For Duesner, the standouts are Chan Marshall (Cat Power), Craig Finn (from the Hold Steady) and Stephen Malkmus.