Today, Anne and I went to see Joaquin Phoenix’s new movie.
By now, I would assume we all know it to be a hoax, a fraud, a satire, or whatever you want to call it.
A great many of the reviews have been scathing; mostly from a sense of bewilderment as to whether or not Phoenix(and, by extension, the director – and Phoenix’s brother in law – Caisey Affleck) were for real; or just smirking their way through the whole piece at their audience’s expense.
Those who go to see this type of fare are not your normal, multiplex, film audience. They look at the artful marketing, and the cool young names, and consider themselves too hip to be duped (there is nothing, after all, that a hipster hates more than being duped – they’re too hip for that). Nevertheless, at our screening, the skinny-jeaned crew seemed to be sniggering and guffawing away as some kind of defense mechanism: ‘What the fuck was this guy up to?!’.
We live in times, after all, where – according to Fredric Jameson – most people find it easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of Capitalism. In other words, it’s all very well to have a laugh Joaquin, but what about your career?
Well, this is why I think Phoenix was the only man for the job; because the world does not seem to please him.
He is extremely talented, and quite formidable in his commitment. He also has a casual disdain towards Holywood’s normal trappings; its allures and its restrictions.
You get the feeling of a man who knows this will harm his future (on a scale to match an anti-semitic tirade on a Malibu hard-shoulder) but who is prepared to pay the price for a chance to lash out at what used to be called the Dream Factory but now seems to be a visciously efficient abbatoir skilled in consuming and discarding talented young meat.
In his book, ‘The Whole Equation’, David Thomson talks about the Hollywood recruitment process. Visiting that cabal of producers would be a horde of Midwestern beauties ‘who’d swallow your grey cum and smile like it were cream’.
That’s how what we see on the screen gets made; and it’s a lie to deny otherwise.
In one final note, in one of the latter scenes of this film, we see Phoenix staging a rap performance at a Miami nightclub. He’s awful, disorientated, and utterly helpless. Once you’ve seen the film you realise it’s all an act but to the audience there (full of young beauties – male and female – who’d be happy to swallow that grey cum) he’s simply a falling star, freshly ashamed from a Letterman appearance, and in all probability mentally ill.
Nevertheless, there they are, IPhones hoisted high, filming the whole scene to laugh over with their mates and post on their Facebook pages. They don’t seem to give a shit; it’s just entertainment, right?
That is probably one of the most disturbing thoughts that came to me after watching this film: What wouldn’t we film? And what would it take to make us look away?