Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I'm Not There

UPDATE: Here's an excerpt from an article on the upcoming film from yesterday's New York Times:

August 21, 2007
Dylan Movie to Open Like a Rolling Premiere

Imagine you’re a film distributor, handling an experimental movie by one of the country’s most iconoclastic directors. The subject is an enigmatic occasional recluse who is being portrayed by four actors, an actress and a 13-year-old boy. Where do you open that film?

If you’re very lucky, you get to book it at Film Forum, perhaps the most exclusive art-house cinema in Manhattan.

Now what do you do with a movie that stars Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Christian Bale and Heath Ledger; whose subject is Bob Dylan; and whose director is the Oscar-nominated Todd Haynes?

Same answer. Same film. Which is what’s making the planned Nov. 21 release of “I’m Not There,” Mr. Haynes’s rumination on Mr. Dylan’s lives and times, something of a curiosity.

In addition to Film Forum, the film’s distributor, the Weinstein Company, will be opening the movie in just three other theaters, one more in New York and two in Los Angeles, giving it the kind of debut that might be afforded a Mexican documentary. Even “Velvet Goldmine” — the previous Weinstein-Haynes collaboration, about the British glam-rock scene of the 1970s, which starred an unknown Jonathan Rhys Meyers — began in 85 theaters in 1998.

But Harvey Weinstein, the company’s co-chairman, said the slow rollout was the best way to nurture an unconventional, nonlinear movie like “I’m Not There,” in which the above-mentioned stars play Mr. Dylan at particular stages of his life. Shot in styles that correspond to each Dylan epoch, “I’m Not There” sometimes looks like “A Hard Day’s Night,” elsewhere like “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” with Mr. Dylan’s life being imbued with mythic American qualities.

“With a movie like this you have to build it,” said Mr. Weinstein, who founded the company with his brother, Bob, two years ago after an acrimonious split from the Walt Disney Company saw them relinquish control of Miramax. “I don’t think you can go out on 500 screens. The reason for Film Forum is you go where the best word of mouth is on the movie. I like the movie; I think it’s adventurous. The audience is going to have to work — work in a good way.”

Mr. Weinstein said that a similar approach had worked for two of Miramax’s biggest successes. “Good Will Hunting” opened in New York and Los Angeles and eventually brought in nearly $140 million at the domestic box office, while “Chicago” began the same way and grossed $170 million. Those films had larger openings, however: “Good Will Hunting” (with the rising stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon) in 7 theaters, “Chicago” in 77.

“I’m not saying this movie’s going to come anywhere near those,” Mr. Weinstein said, “but I have a tendency to start small and go big. If we threw this movie out wide, I don’t know what it would do. I think we have to start somewhere.”

The “somewhere” means Film Forum, “a real cathedral of cinema” according to Mr. Haynes’s longtime producer, Christine Vachon, which has presented the premieres of work by Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard, Hal Hartley, Claude Chabrol, Spike Lee and Lars von Trier, among many others. But rarely does it get star-laden films like “I’m Not There.” And for it to agree to have another theater share a New York premiere is a rare move.

“We did it with ‘Saraband,’ ” said Karen Cooper, Film Forum’s director, referring to Mr. Bergman’s last American release. “Lincoln Plaza opened it the same day, and I don’t think either of us were happy. I thought the same crowd that lined up to see ‘Scenes From a Marriage’ would want to see ‘Scenes From a Divorce.’ I was wrong.”

Ms. Cooper said that she was offered shared openings all the time and regularly turned them down. But she said that she and Mike Maggiore, Film Forum’s programmer and publicist, decided the Haynes film was so remarkable that they would not mind sharing it with Lincoln Plaza. In Los Angeles, “I’m Not There” will open at the Westside Pavilion and ArcLight Cinemas.

Conventional movie-business wisdom says that if a film fails to catch fire at its opening theater, it will not move much farther. But Mr. Weinstein said there was “not a chance” he would not take this film into more theaters and cities, regardless of its fate on the coasts. “I’m going to play every major city in the United States with this movie,” he said. “I’ll play 100 cities, at least.”

He said he also planned to position Ms. Blanchett, who plays Mr. Dylan during his “Blonde on Blonde” phase, for an Oscar. (Mr. Bale corresponds to “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” Mr. Ledger to “John Wesley Harding.”)

“I may be jumping the gun,” Mr. Weinstein said, “but if Cate Blanchett doesn’t get nominated, I’ll shoot myself.”

Read it all here.


Carlos said...

This movie's gonna be nuts!

Anam Cara said...

Sorry, BB, but I think I'm not there.

BabyBlue said...

The longer one listens to Dylan, the more one comes to see that the title of his last film, "Masked and Anonymous" describes him best. It looks like this rather experimental film seeks to draw that out, in rather unusual terms. But the bit we've seen of Cate Blanchett, it is going to be a fascinating ride.

I understand that there are different Dylans. My into is to the latest Dylan (which I don't think is represented in the film, actually) - though it is just his latest mask. Or maybe it's the real deal - how would we know? I think he's doing Chaplin, which is one reason he doesn't speak.

But the next one was the early-early Dylan, the one that will be played here by the African American actor, the Woody-Dylan. From there I went to the Blonde on Blonde Dylan, the Thin Mercury Sound Dylan (which is where he is back to now, by the way), then to his Gospel era, then to the Rolling Thunder Tour, then to his Country Persona.

Some I've found hard to deal with (he screams his way through Rolling Thunder, but wow, what a period). There is sort of a "lost period" when he did MTV Unplugged, but that seems now way-over.