(Todd Phillips _ 2019)
Todd Phillips is granting the most glaring lighting on our most hidden nooks. How does he achieve this feat? By waking the Phoenix. And what a Phoenix! I challenge anyone who has seen "Joker" to tell me that he or she has not thought about giving Joaquin Phoenix an Oscar for his fascinating performance. To tell you the truth, I am not even sure that the interpretation can be invoked; it is a true incarnation to which the actor has devoted himself, deep down to the bones, whatever it takes, enough to worry about the survival of the actor. At least this acknowledgment comes back to him. And it doesn’t stop there.
We remember the Oscar-winning incarnation of Leonardo DiCaprio whose "Revenant" had chilled us, awakening an uncertain memory of a devastated survival that we must have experienced one day. Here we receive the incarnation of Phoenix as that unacceptably sensitive and rebellious part of our consciousness, which is better watched on the screen than in the mirror of one's reality.
But it is indeed a mirror that Phillips hands to us here; the mirror of an inevitable catharsis. Here the cinema takes all its meaning and honours its function. On the one hand your mind is entertained by a work of actions and intrications without fault, on the other your dark secrets are purged by the subtle and unmistakable alchemy taking place between the hero and you. And yet, making a literally monstrous killer the hero of your liberation is not the slimmest of challenges.
For that matter, the cinema has gone astray more than once. It happens to "come out" of a film with the mind mired, a perspective mowed and the body exhausted. Sometimes the abuse of the 7th art goes to the rape of our consciousness. And there is unfortunately no more age for that. Children as adults are the prey of this misuse. The abundant current fashion that precipitates our fears of ghosts is a shining example. None of these phobic movies will bring your consciousness to light, quite the opposite. And this is not reserved only for "horrors"; it is common to suffer the abuse of an ultra violent scene hidden in the middle of a movie that had never announced the colour. This is where the cinema goes astray; when the viewer is neither brought, nor acknowledged, nor enlightened. With "Joker", even the violence that arises from certain scenes remains a painting on the canvas of the screen, it is an evocation rather than an intrusion; you are shaken, but safe.
It is the razor wire of the 7th art; his power is active in creation as well as in destruction. Cinema manipulates, you have to know it. Some movies reveal and strengthen you, while others empty you of what you are to pour poisons into. And it’s a fine line. The subtle alchemy of a film is fragile; whether the potion is magical or poisonous may be a bit of detail. Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix (and all the others who made the masterpiece "Joker" possible), mastered the monster; they made it an elixir, down to the last detail.
The shots are as rich and diverse as they are precise and sought after; each one - accompanied methodically by the music of Guðnadóttir - in its movement, in its frame, in its colors and its grain, converses with the actor as if he were his most intimate confidant, his best friend; he who does not judge him; whoever recognizes him for the man he is. And this friend, this point of view that becomes "objective" is a different perspective of the peace growing in you. The peace you make with this unsustainable character of suffering and imbalance; the peace you make with what might have been hidden in you. The catharsis is active, the work is done, and it's something of a miracle.
When Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) goes from imbalance of freefall, to the beginnings of his graceful balance, the first gestures of the Joker are a dance of ease; a ballerina in pieces which, in a soiled place, celebrates the discovery of her sanguine vocation. A phenomenal Phoenix that is finally reborn from its life of ashes by the play of death. The last scene will resume this indescribable engine to give us the taste for a sequel, without much hope, for such a masterpiece might only be one.
The theme is heavy but the work is of a lightness that leaves speechless.
Disturbing? - Fascinating rather.
A grown movie, for grown-ups.
Already cult? - Joker.