After eighteen months spent looking (and acting) very strange indeed, Joaquin Phoenix revealed all last night on David Letterman’s Late Show. It turns out his giving up acting, becoming a rap singer and general mental disintegration were all part of an act, which he and brother-in-law Casey Affleck had dreamt up and then filmed as part of the mokumentary I’m still here.
Detailing Phoenix’s apparent breakdown in shocking and often explicit detail, the film is a brilliant study of the disintegration of celebrity. But the film’s message aside, it also serves as a great example of how two men’s shared creative vision was brought to life without being expurgated or tamed. Because so much could have gone wrong and so many people had so much to lose (or to gain by revealing the secret). Yet everyone who was in on it, stayed in on it. Everyone involved embraced the vision and did everything they could to make it real.
There would have been many wobbles along the way but these were put aside and creativity was allowed to rule the day. The result? Almost without exception, the world was hoodwinked by Phoenix and Casey. Even America’s foremost film critic, Roger Ebert, was moved to write, ‘Here is a gifted actor who apparently by his own decision has brought desolation upon his head. He was serious when he said he would never act again. He was serious when he announced a career as a hip hop artist. He wasn’t goofing when he was on the Letterman show. He was flying into pieces.’
In fact, Phoenix was indeed goofing. And it resulted in a quite incredible piece of performance art.
- I’m Still Here official website http://www.imstillheremovie.com/