I’m not there. (Todd Haynes, 2007)

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En español a continuación.

I’m not there., directed by Todd Haynes (2007),

Score: deeply poetic.

See, this is what I was talking about when I complained about A quiet passion.

I’m not there. is a freeform biopic graviting the figure of music legend and Nobel laureate Bob Dylan. Six different actors approach the artist from six different angles: Woodie Guthrie (Marcus Carl Franklin), a young black boy travelling the country, represents Dylan’s origins and influences; Jack Rollins (Christian Bale) is the young, folk-singer Dylan who later converts to Christianity and explores gospel music; Jude Quinn (Cate Blanchett) is the electric, insanely famous, alleged sellout Dylan; Robbie Clark (Heath Ledger) is an actor who plays Jack Rollins in the in-universe biopic Grain of Sand and who struggles with his relationship with his wife Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg); Billy the Kid (Richard Gere) lives in a Western movie in the little town of Riddle and represents the elder, recluse Dylan; Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Whishaw) ties them all together as the figure of the poet and the bohemian, using aphorisms and quotes from the real Dylan.

A biopic always implies a personal vision of the subject person, so why try to pretend objectivity? I’m not there. is a dialogue between Haynes and his experience of Dylan, and intending to make anyone believe that a biopic can be anything other than that is a plain lie. I’m not there. strives to capture the multifaceted essence of Dylan’s art and doesn’t bother so much with the historical events: the straight biographical approach is completely exhausted after rise, fall and optimistic-ending efforts such as Ray and Walk the line.

I’m not a fan of Dylan as of now (though this movie has contributed to my interest in him), so I don’t really have an opinion on the man. The only thing I know is the film shows the reluctant leader of thought, the wanderer, the visionary poet, the decadent rock star, the arrogant celebrity, the womanizer, the failed husband, the middle-class bohemian, the sensitive soul, the voice of a generation and the chainsmoker, and they are all true and a construct at the same time. It’s a profoundly poetic movie: the song lyrics are intertwined with the verse-ridden dialogue and the evocative images: music is poetry and poetry is music, feeling and reflection. Cate Blanchett is simply stunning.

All in all, a bold and brave biopic that actually makes an effort to capture the spirit of the subject, enter a dialogue with him and present him to the world. Delightful to watch.


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I’m not there., dirigida por Todd Haynes (2007).

Puntuación: profundamente poética.

Veis, de esto hablaba yo cuando me quejé de Historia de una pasión.

I’m not there. es un biopic de forma libre acerca de la leyenda musical y ganador del Nobel Bob Dylan. Seis actores diferentes se aproximan al artista desde seis ángulos diferentes: Woodie Guthrie (Marcus Carl Franklin), un joven negro que viaja por el país, representa los orígenes e influencias de Dylan; Jack Rollins (Christian Bale) es el joven Dylan cantante de folk que más tarde se convierte al cristianismo y explora la música gospel; Jude Quinn (Cate Blanchett) es el eléctrico, absurdamente famoso y supuestamente vendido Dylan; Robbie Clark (Heath Ledger) es un actor que interpreta a Jack Rollins en el biopic intradiegético Grain of Sand y que tiene problemas en su relación con su esposa Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg); Billy the Kid (Richard Gere) vive en un western en el pueblito de Riddle y representa al Dylan anciano y recluso; Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Whishaw) los une a todos como la figura del poeta y el bohemio, usando aforismos y citas del Dylan real.

Un biopic siempre implica una visión personal de la persona en cuestión, así que ¿por qué tratar de pretender una cierta objetividad? I’m not there. es un diálogo entre Haynes y su experiencia de Dylan, y tratar de hacer creer a nadie que un biopic puede ser nada más que eso es una pura mentira. I’m not there. se esfuerza por capturar la esencia polifacética del arte de Dylan y no se molesta mucho con los eventos históricos: el enfoque biográfico directo está completamente agotado después de intentos con la estructura de auge, caída y final optimista como Ray y La cuerda floja.

No soy una admiradora de Dylan por el momento (aunque esta película ha contribuido a mi interés en él), así que realmente no tengo una opinión formada sobre el hombre. Lo único que sé es que la película muestra al líder de opinión reticente, el vagabundo, el poeta visionario, la estrella del rock decadente, el famoso arrogante, el mujeriego, el marido fracasado, el bohemio de clase media, el alma sensible, la voz de una generación y el fumador compulsivo, y todos son verdaderos y una construcción al mismo tiempo. Es una película profundamente poética: las letras de las canciones se entrelazan con el diálogo plagado de versos y las imágenes evocadoras: la música es poesía y la poesía es música, sentimiento y reflexión. Cate Blanchett está increíble.

En conclusión, un biopic atrevido y valiente que realmente hace un esfuerzo por capturar el espíritu del retratado, entrar en diálogo con él y presentarlo al mundo. Una delicia de ver.

The leftovers (Season 1, 2014)

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En español a continuación.

The leftovers, Season 1, created by Damon Lindelof, based on a novel by Tom Perrotta (HBO, 2014).

Score: insightful.

On October the 11th, 2011, 2% of the world’s population vanishes. They just poof into thin air. The leftovers shows some insight into the lives of the small community of Mapleton, just outside New York City, three years after the Sudden Departure. Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) is the Chief Officer of the local police, keen on maintaining peace and trying to help out his teenage daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley) after his father (Scott Glenn) was commited to a mental institution, his son Tom (Chris Zylka) ran away and joined a cult and his wife and he became estranged. Mapleton, just like the rest of the country, is being slowly taken over by the Guilty Remnant, a cult with a vow of silence and chainsmoking, led by Patti Levin (Ann Dowd) and intent on making everyone remember (and obsess over, if possible) the Sudden Departure. Other important characters are Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston), an Episcopalian priest hell-bent on proving that the Sudden Departure was not the Rapture by digging around the morally reproachable things that the Departed did; his sister Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), whose husband and two children were Departed and now works for the government, and Holy Wayne (Paterson Joseph), a cult leader who claims can take grief away by hugging people.

Even though the setting is similar to shows like Flashforward, The leftovers takes on a very different course: the goal is not to find out why all those people disappeared. It is not about solving the mystery, not even about taking a rational approach to it. Something painful happened with no explanation, and the different characters are seen coping with grief, reflecting on their own spirituality, looking up to an absent god for answers or preying on those who can’t find relief. The tone is successfully set within the first two episodes, through extensive use of religious imagery, from the Christian fresco-inspired opening credits to the repeated apparition of a deer, and by quickly establishing what the conflicts are.

The cinematography is more functional than elegant, the score abuses (not always appropriate) preexistent songs, and the dialogue can be silly at times, but the show is, in general, excellently written, especially on episodes that flesh out a particular character, such as “Two boats and a helicopter” and “Guest”. Probably because it deals with sensitive and powerful topics such as faith, grief and loss, from multiple perspectives. It works very well as an allegory for loss and trauma: the Sudden Departure is what you get when you add up sudden absence, an inability to rationalize what happened and a lack of closure. It works for natural deaths of loved ones, massive accidents, terrorist attacks, even broken homes. This allows the show to explore a different aspect of the topic with each character. Events and causality are not really overexplained, so it can be a demanding show; Kevin’s arc in particular requires piecing together and some patience.

All in all, probably not what you’re looking for if you want mystery and adventure, even though the plot trigger promises both. Once that it is out of the way, I recommend this show for its insight and the psychological depth of its characters.

Under the spoiler tag, I would like to analyse the characters in more depth, since there are some very juicy details.

***SPOILERS***

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Black Mirror (Season 3, 2016)

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En español a continuación.

Black Mirror, Season 3, created by Charlie Brooker (Netflix, 2016).

Score: guilt-tripping and fearmongering.

People have a weird relationship with science and technology: they trust them but they don’t bother to try and understand them. People complain about things their phones do or won’t do without realising some of those are for their own safety, or that they aren’t using the phone correctly. I worked for three years in tech support and you’d be surprised at how many people assume the manufacturer is obliged to back up all their personal data without even asking for permission and at the same time defend that 1234 is a perfectly good password. Bothering to understand the most basic things about computers and handheld devices is for nerds and millennials, and that really is a shame because technology is an incredibly powerful tool.

So, what do you do if you want to warn society about misusing such a mighty instrument? Wave your arms around, wail that the end is nigh and point fingers at everyone, of course. Black Mirror’s villains are unbelievable and boring because they’re all the lovechildren of Dr. Evil and Nolan’s Joker. Its allegories are ham-fisted, short-sighted and unoriginal. Even when it criticises technology directly, it’s really misguided.

What if phones, but too much, indeed.

But, for some reason I can’t start to wrap my head around, there is one episode in this season that it’s actually good, and not only for Black Mirror standards: “San Junipero”. Probably because it drops the edgelord act and actually examines an issue, with its good and bad aspects. Also, it bothers to create characters who actually have human, understandable motivations, which one would think would happen more frequently.

Here are my six rants for the six separate episodes:

***SPOILERS***

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Burning chrome (William Gibson, 1986)

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Burning Chrome, by William Gibson (1986).

Score: timeless classic.

Gibson is a difficult author, the way I see it. He can come off as vague, though he’s not. He not so much explains things as suggests them. He uses as few words as he can get away with, so you need to pay close attention, because every single word counts and you need to fill in the gaps. He also loves in medias res and that’s part of what makes his stories so interesting. Explaining the plot of one of the stories in Burning Chrome is kind of spoiling it, because half the fun is piecing the information together, hunting for clues about the setting, the past of the characters and the chronological sequence of events.

Burning Chrome is a collection of ten short stories, publised originally between 1977 and 1986. Its pages are inhabited by hustlers, petty thieves, technicians, hackers, assassins, astronauts, journalists and artists, and everything is made of neon and chrome. “The Gernsback Continuum” could very well be the manifesto of the latest great revolution in science-fiction, cyberpunk: we are no longer interested in this proto-fascist future where progress is taken for granted and knowledge is unambiguously used for the greater good. The future is here and it is gritty, edgy and spliced with celluloid tape. “The winter market” revisits the legend of the tormented artist with a delicious oniric, transhuman twist. I choose to read “The belonging kind” as a truly inspired allegory on alcoholism, while “New Rose Hotel” and “Burning Chrome” are fascinating twists on the classic noir narration. “Hinterlands” is some of the most eerily beautiful prose I’ve ever read.

Sometimes it’s hard to wrap your head around the idea that Gibson has never been able to see the future; being one of the most influential writers in the history of science-fiction will do that. Still, this is not one of those books you read solely for their historical significance, it’s one that you can enjoy today, with no strings attached (once you’re over the fact that the society of information ended up being digital, not analogical). Let me insist: with motifs like people living their lives through the eyes of simstim stars and actually holding a job being a symbol of status, it is truly amazing that the author managed to see the things we are struggling with now coming for us thirty years ago.

Also, you might want to bring this up the next time someone says that science-fiction lacks literary quality. Within his narrative minimalism, Gibson is a wizard of metaphors and similes. ‘Directly beneath the clock, the flat eyes of somebody’s grandpappy’s prize buck regarded Deke from a framed, blown-up snapshot gone the slick sepia of cockroach wings’ he writes, as pretty much the only description of a room where war veterans gather to bet on virtual airplane fights. ‘Her other palm came up to brush across the feed-back pads, and it rained all afternoon, raindrops drumming on the steel and soot-stained glass above Bobby’s bed’, and that’s how much Gibson needs to say so we understand that Automatic Jack slept with his best friend’s girlfriend. ‘The Finn’s place has a defective hologram in the window, METRO HOLOGRAFIX, over a display of dead flies wearing fur coats of gray dust’. It’s a passage that doesn’t give that much information, but says it all.

All in all, delicious to read, take in, reread beautiful passages out loud, look out the window on a rainy afternoon and wonder where the future we were promised went.