I love the 2000s decade because being born in 1990, it is really the one I get to know and remember in full. I'm also a film fan who loves making lists. After a few years to really put the decade in retrospect, I have settled on the 5 films that stand out to me as its best and most important masterpieces and all are in my personal top 15 films of all time. 4 of them are not uncommon inclusions on Best of the 2000's lists: Moulin Rouge!, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, No Country for Old Men, and Mulholland Dr. The 5th one may be more of a surprise: I'm Not There.
Released in 2007, it sort of came and went in terms of national conscienceness. Cate Blanchett's Oscar nominated performance playing Bob Dylan and the whole idea of "Hey, 6 Bob Dylans!" got most of the attention, the rest of it around it seen as a random art movie. Reviews were decent but not exemplary. Todd Haynes' last film, the excellent Far From Heaven, had made somewhat more of a mark due to its greater Oscar appeal.
And yet as soon as I saw it I knew I had seen something remarkable. Of the other 5 films on my above list, Todd Haynes' film should be grouped with No Country for Old Men and Mulholland Dr. for this reason: There is scarcely films like this where every shot of film, camera angle, line delivery, audio sound has been so obviously pinpointed by its director and his vision. Haynes is a true painter of the screen visually and in audio here. If you're a fan of how directors like the Coens, Lynch, Kubrick, Hitchcock, etc. make their film roll a piece of definitively controlled art down to milliseconds of editing, I'm Not There is in that class of "Optimus Auteur Filmmaking". It's one of the greatest visual/audio/editing/etc. masterclasses I have ever seen and should be showed in every film school. It's the definition of a "work of art" film.
The movie itself is the closest you can get to the film version of a song. Through its visual and audio superiority, it sweeps through the 6 Bob Dylans and their varying interpretations. Each of course, represents a different aspect of himself. All of the versions coming together to tell this man's story is a hundred times more fascinating and layered than any straight forward biopic can be. It's one long visual/audio emotiative journey transcending characters or stories. It was pretty easy to understand the meaning of each of the versions of Dylan. I had already known his background, so it's understandable that those who didn't could get lost, but regardless, I found the reviews talking about the difficulty of finding its meaning to be overstating the point. It is clearly structured under the umbrella of Dylan's life and different periods.
I'm Not There is about society, fame, love and love lost, recluse and comeback, even artistic representations of society itself - But most of all it's a quintessional representation of the human journey and all the things inside of ourselves in combat with each other and the world, as we move from our youth to old age. The stories represent Dylan but on a greater level ourselves. It is life created on screen. It's the best way possible to show on film how human beings are fundamentally an enigma. To me it is not only one of the most superior works of artistic filmmaking I have seen, but also terrifically complex and layered in its stories and people. I consider it an indisputable masterpiece and from the perspective of film as a medium of art, the overall best film of the 2000s decade. Maybe in the year 2050 Sights and Sounds will have it in the top 20 and people will be saying "Did you know I'm Not There was ignored with mixed reviews when it came out?" as is the case with some artistic films that are now considered classics but on their release, went by the wayside.