It was during a recreation of the London concert at which a betrayed folk fan screamed “Judas!” at Dylan that I realized the best analogy for I’m Not There is Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Only Gibson’s film is equal in its commitment to surreal reverence and literalism. The truly unbearable aspect of the Passion was not its primeval anti-Semitism or pornographic bloodshed; it was its predictability. Despite being a story that so many know down to its barest details (in four separate versions), Gibson retold it with grinding exactitude. Even Gibson’s recourse to dead languages had no effect on the film’s sense of inevitability. The horror that dawned on me when I realized that I knew – and that everyone who had read the Gospel of Matthew (or Ginsberg’s “Howl”) knew – the Aramaic for “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (“Eli, eli, lamma sabacthani?”) was the same horror that gripped me when I realized I’m Not There couldn’t resist a recreation of the “Dylan-goes-electric” 1965 Newport folk festival, replete with the apocryphal story of Pete Seeger attempting to take an axe to the electric cords because he couldn’t hear Dylan explaining that he wasn’t going to work on Maggie’s farm anymore.
Meanwhile the real beef on Saval's part appears to be two-fold:
Todd Haynes was four years old when Highway 61 Revisited (1965) came out, and when the United States launched its full-scale invasion of Vietnam. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I’m Not There is besotted with the ’60s, and with the Dylan of that era. Most of the soundtrack can be traced to about three albums from that time. There’s an obvious reason for this: Dylan’s music was better then, and only a shameless apologist would argue that he didn’t undergo a creative decline after Blonde on Blonde (1966).
Again, happily count me as one such "shameless apologist," for I tend to think that only an ignorant and over-reaching polemicist could say the albums of the early seventies, the eighties and the late nineties were less creative (or for that matter, any less essentially of their times) than all that early hippie shit–Blood on the Tracks(!) (1974), Infidels (1983), Traveling Wilburys one and three (1988-90), Oh Mercy (1989), World Gone Wrong (1993), and Time out of Mind (1997)–just to name a few. Or as wikipedia puts it: "To the dismay of some fans, Dylan refuses to be a nostalgia act..."
But despite having an ax to grind, (and certainly if one stacks all those who appreciate Dylan's music with slavish cult/image/poet-worshippers the grinding would be justified), Saval's article is still dead on in its diagnosis of the film itself (over-literal, clichéd etc), if not by extension of our modern times: