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December 9, 2010 / Prof Cupcake.

Im still hoping this film reaches a wider audience

The cinema is cold, the lights are dimmed and the screen is huge. As most films do this one begins with a star, Jaquine Phoenix, but unlike most everything else this film is not about love, or redemption or dare I say it, box office takes. It happens to be about the rare and elusive subject of spectatorship. The 106 minutes of ‘I’m Still Here’ are not particularly comfortable. Unlike the breakdown’s we watch on ‘reality television’ or read about in people magazine (gleefully watching week after week the likes of Britney slowly descend into a life filled with chaos and panty flashing,) Joaquin’s decent is hyper real, utterly fake and the prime subject in this mockumetary. For the sake of clarity this review shall be broken into to sections, how it conveys its message and what the message is. The style of this film is unimpressive. The direction comes out more in the content and the acting then the style of filming. The camera attempts to act as an impartial observer integrating itself into Joaquin’s life but for the most part it remains a highly conscious entity constantly altering the states of those around it. Though this film attempts to present itself as a documentary as well, the omnipresent nature of the camera, as well as its ability to catch both sides of a telephone call (?) render its very voice fraudulent. The camera cannot be trusted for it is constantly exceeding the limitations of ‘truth’ that it is attempting to define itself by. Furthermore its integration of multiple independent filmic sections, (talk shows, you tube videos, home videos…ect. ) gives the piece a hokey and non authentic feel. The film attempts to be about the decline of Joaquin phoenix but (do to its fraudulent nature, the fact that how we perceive him is equally if not more important that how he sees himself.) ends up being a sort of back handed slap to the established society that ridiculed him. The film’s stylistic voice becomes muddled in the layers of façade it has so zealously self imposed, while trying to tackle to many subjects. Is this a film about stardom, insanity, self perception, a f-u to Hollywood, our celebrity hungry culture, the inherent performative nature of existence or is it much simpler, like JACK-ASS 3d, a film meant to be taken at surface value, an elaborate and costly hoax. By not having a clear message/intention, (which we will get to later) the film’s style as a whole ruptures. The first half of the film unarguably has more focus. The second is where many more stylistic error claw their way in. Overly long, unnecessarily gratuitous and with the worlds most cliché ending, (a long swimming meets river wading sequence. [Joaquin underwater is oddly reminiscent of a manatee by the by]) do nothing to stylistically enlighten us. For a film that seems so blasé and f the system to me, it is odd that the film reeks of Oscar dreams, even including a large amount of awards footage in the final sequences. A stylistic try hard film with out any clear filmic voice, it shows the true travesty of I’m STILL HERE lays not with Joaquin Phoenix’s stunning portrayal of a man on the edge, but in Casey Affleck’s inability to mold a film out of some stunning material. The message(s) in this film are muddled and ultimately a true clarity of understanding about this film is a personal revelation. (do in part to the failure of Casey Afflecks vision, which no I do not think was to make a film with unique personal appeal to each viewer.) Joaquin Phoenix’s decline is the ultimate mirror to contemporary American society, allowing us all to see both elements of our self and our culture in his self imposed destruction. He transcends acting to become not only the voice but the embodiment of that every elusive concept of NOWness. His performance as himself loosing himself to the concept of our rigid social conceptions of his identity is heart breaking to watch. Furthermore, be this a hoax or not, our expectations and assumptions about him during this bizarre publicity stunt of a time, his madness becomes both real and unreal for as this film shows, what in today’s society is more important, who you are or who ‘we’ think you are. this film exposes the troubling realization that as a society we have ceded the right to define ourselves and have given this job to the social animal of public opinion. It is not just Joaquin Phoenix who is experience this crisis of identity, but if we look at the nature of facebook, myspace and twitter identities we see that we have all become performers longing for some one to recognize within us the essence of our character so we can define ourselves through their eyes. As I briefly touched on before the nature of this real not real hoax also has some startling implications for the state of reality. Reality as we know, is predicated on perception and experience. But do to our new found 21st century ability to live vicariously if not totally through the lives of others thanks to an explosion of social media tools, we have begun to accept art as reality. What IM STILL HERE shows us, is that we are no longer able to understand the inherent fallacy with the filmic medium. All forms of filmic communication are products of only half truths, for nothing edited or framed can establish a concrete reality. From the news to jersey shore the idea of reality television, or reality celebrity lives, is the mistake that may cost us our cultural understanding of art. IM STILL HERE is not so much the terrifying decline of a man into insanity but a window into the insanity of us all. At the end, to me, Joaquin is not the subject of a self imposed joke, but rather the architect of the greatest film hoax, he is not the punch line, we are.


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