I really enjoyed I'm Still Here. I can't say it was a great movie, because it isn't, but it is a pretty cool idea and it shows Joaquin Phoenix is truly a great actor....it also made me laugh...lots!
It is no surprise that the whole thing was a hoax, but maybe a hoax is the wrong word? In the sense that Joaquin quit acting to pursue a hip-hop career then yes it was a hoax, but the scenes in the film are real and largely improvised and spontaneous. The rumors of the hoax had been following the project from the beginning, (the idea of it being a hoax is openly referenced within the narrative of the film) so in a way the hoax became the reality that they were trying to fake. Therefore extending Phoenix and Casey Affleck's intension to make a film that is a comment on celebrity and media culture in this weird modern age.
How successful I'm Still Here is at doing this is up for debate (like I say, it isn't a great film by any means). Some may claim it is a mere vanity project taken a bit too far and the artistic output and/or critique of the media it was trying to portray lacked any major punch.
But whatever you say about the project, you must give credit to the film makers. They had an idea, an original idea to do something new and unique regarding filmmaking and they followed it through...thoroughly. Not just in terms of living a lie for a year and half but also Phoenix's physical change, and his maniacal persona are convincing as a reality and also extremely intriguing to watch. He does make the viewer laugh, cringe, sympathise, empathise with and too his character. Yet he is also often (most of the movie) comes across as a complete arse-hole, rude, obnoxious and petty. But despite his erratic and multiple personalities in the film, they all complement each other as this 'character' ('Joaquin'/'JP'...whatever!) and that could be this film's major triumph. Wether Phoenix was putting this on or not doesn't matter, the 'character' of the film remains and he is actively engaging for an audience.
The film's social comment on todays horrendous media and celebrity culture are perhaps still unclear. Casey Affleck has said that he has found promoting this film hard, not just because he has has to consistently lie about the 'truth' of the project, but because he just wants people to see and wait a few weeks until a real discussion and dialogue on the film can begin.
Joaquin Phoenix has now come out (looking shaved and slim..see video below) and said that he and Affleck wanted to try a new approach to filmmaking. And it seems that Affleck especially wants to try something new regarding how films are publicised. Perhaps in a more held back and natural way, instead of this urgency of opening weekends and audiences knowing everything about the film before they see it. Let the movie have time to get through to people....
Whatever the immediate response to I'm Still Here it is promising to see two young talents in Hollywood directly questioning the system and industry they work in. The world of Hollywood and show biz is a constant struggle and tension between art & expression and business & money, and that conflict of often contradictory ideas that splinter opinion and thoughts on modern culture are here in this film and laid bare, here for the viewer to pick at and ponder if they so choose.
I'm Still Here throws a lot of these ideas up in the air, but maybe fails to catch any again. Regardless of the catching is always interesting to shake things up and see what happens, in this case I guess you left with more questions and wonderings than answers, but you do certainly laugh through a lot of it.
One final note....you gotta give credit to the man...that beard was one hell of a commitment and very thorough he was with it too.
Here is Joaqiun Phoenix explaining more on David Letterman last night (22/10/2010)
I'm not sure that this Letterman guy is the right person for this interview....he really doesn't seem to get it...but I guess that is the whole point?!...Maybe the project of 'I'm Still Here' is on-going?....and yes Dave I think if there is a joke here it is aimed at you...not 'you' as a man, but the nature of your work. Don't take it personally, for it seems were all a part of this one.
Just keep laughing along with it....it might be OK in the end!