Today: April 24, 2024

I'm Still Here

In 2008, the multi-award-winning, Oscar-nominated actor Joaquin
Phoenix announced his retirement from acting to pursue a career in
music. Not country music, following his successful portrayal of Johnny
Cash, but rap/hip-hop.

Naturally there was some doubt about this, and many thought it was a
joke, but when he turned up on the Letterman Show to promote his latest
(and last) film Two Lovers, he was dishevelled and monosyllabic. The
clip was an instant viral hit across the Internet and most people were
convinced that this once great actor had completely lost the plot.

Hollywood gossip sites were filled with news about his demise, not only
from “the industry”, but also from reality. At least that is what is
shown in this feature documentary I’m Still Here, the directorial debut
of Phoenix’s brother-in-law Casey Affleck.

Affleck is a fine actor who, like the subject of the film, is
multi-award-winning, Oscar-nominated and capable of giving intense
performances. Also like his brother Ben, he is keen to work behind the
camera as well as in front of it. For his first project he has certainly
picked something that is enigmatic and a little controversial, for
which he was perfectly placed to record, and has certainly got people
talking; mainly about whether it is real or a hoax, which seems to be
shifting the focus away from the value of the movie.

Basically, this is presented as a fly-on-the-wall doc about Phoenix’s
efforts to reinvent himself after becoming disillusioned with being an
actor and movie star. It follows Joaquin as he tries to convince his
friends of his intensions and also to get P-Diddy/Sean Combs to produce his first album. We watch as Phoenix self-destructs on screen as he begins to question his talent and his life.

The debate about whether it is a hoax or real is actually irrelevant.
Firstly, it is a misnomer to call it a hoax and it would be more
accurate to ask whether it is fact or fiction, and to be honest, it
doesn’t matter because either way it is a brilliant piece of cinema.

If it is fiction, then Phoenix has turned in the performance of his
lifetime, portraying a version of himself in the ultimate piece of
Method Acting into which he draws a cast of A-list actors. He lives the
role for the entire shooting of the film, to maintain the illusion,
whether it is completely scripted or improvised, and in the process puts
his future career on the line. It certainly had a detrimental effect on
Two Lovers box office takings. If, on the other hand, it is real, it is
a fascinating and engrossing document of an actor and celebrity in the
throes of massive delusion and total self-destruction. Fact or fiction,
it is a stinging indictment of celebrity and its ensuing, parasitic
media circus, and also very funny.

In the wake of the film’s release the internet was already abuzz
with rumours and stories of new casting offers for the actor.
Maintaining the illusion for as long as possible, could have only helped
at the box-office. Still, a fascinating film.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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