I left a screening late last night of “I’m Still Here” disturbed, alarmed, and literally unable to sleep afterward. The ‘documentary film’ directed by Casey Affleck centers around the retirement of actor and brother in law Joaquin Phoenix, and his decision to descend into a downward spiral into the world of hip hop. After two years of speculation, the film ultimately was not real, and more along the lines of films like “Don’t Look Back” and “This is Spinal Tap”. However, I am not sure where that leaves us.
It debuted this month at the Toronto Film Festival to scathing reviews, mostly questioning “Is this real or not”? and touching base on the disturbing images caught on camera in the 90 minute film. As a long time fan of Phoenix’s work, I was really shocked and saddened that he planned to retire after Two Lovers. Being as dedicated as possible to his craft though, he has spent the last two years taking us ALL on an original, mind blowing experimental ride. And by all of us, I mean -David Letterman, Ben Stiller, P Diddy, Edward James Olmos, etc. Affleck has yet to let the audience know which parts were real and which weren’t. The drug snorting? The hookers? The home videos of Joaquin with his family in Panama? But I suppose this is the ultimate message of the film. Documentary, performance art-whichever way you see it. I’ve never seen anything like it.
I suppose in the end, that may just be the beauty of this whole experimental mockumentary. Also a disturbing and heartbreaking lesson on the quick rise and fall of fame, the media, and how cruel Hollywood can be. If this is all truly a hoax, then this is definitely the best performance I have ever seen, because Phoenix as ‘JP’ followed me straight out of the theater, and I sincerely hope the film, and he get recognized for that. I recommend ”I’m Still Here” for those who can come with an open mind, and want to see first hand a story -true or false- about the ultimate disintegration of fame.
Check out the trailer: