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Filmspotting Message Boards => Marathons => Topic started by: Sandy on August 29, 2019, 11:58:07 PM

Title: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: Sandy on August 29, 2019, 11:58:07 PM
Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life


“I say that it is the greatest good for a man to discuss virtue every day and those other things about which you hear me conversing and testing myself and others, for the unexamined life is not worth living” (Apology by Plato). With this challenge, Socrates sets moral philosophy, as we understand it, in motion. For the first time, it is not good enough for a man to merely understand and examine the universe that surrounds him. Now, a man must also understand and examine the universe that dwells within his own soul.  -- Frank Redmond

I can't tell you how long I've been considering a Joaquin Phoenix marathon. Maybe it's as early as when I came to the forum in 2011 and found the marathon thread, or maybe it was when I tried to write about The Village for another thread here and stumbled. I should have been able to come up with something, I mean I saw the movie in the theater four times! But even back then, the reason I kept returning, was to investigate what was going on within Lucius Hunt. And after four times through, I still couldn't quite grasp it. ...Whenever this idea began, it's time now to take on the challenge. I'm tired of being intimidated by it. :)

I also can't say how long I've been aware of Joaquin Phoenix (hereafter JP). The 1996 book, Lost Hollywood: The Fast Times and Short Life of River Phoenix certainly brought to light the family's troubled story. And when JP's Bruno in The Immigrant said he danced on the streets as a child for money, it's pretty autobiographical. This brings to mind, where does acting begin and reenacting end? Or, are the lines too blurry to bother knowing the answer? I would posit that it's exactly this undefinable territory which makes JP's performances so intriguing.

Here's the thing. My grandmother wanted to be a nurse, so she approached her father and he said, "I will pay for your schooling, if you promise to take care of your family with your nursing skills." She promised, she got her degree, and she spent the rest of her life keeping that promise. JP knew abject poverty and has also kept his promise to make good, so his family wouldn't want again. Whether it was an explicit, or an implicit expectation, it matters not, for the child assumed the responsibility. Reminiscent of Judy Garland's utter adherence to her childhood born obligations, I want to see triumph this time around. Keeping my fingers crossed.

I entertained the thought of going through JP's films chronologically, but let that go. This will be a meandering sort of exercise, with no agenda, except to explore an actor and his approach to his characters. Please feel free to use this thread as you wish. Review, comment, lament, rate, etc.

ABC Afterschool Specials. Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia  1984
SpaceCamp  1986
Russkies  1987
Secret Witness  1988
Parenthood  1989
To Die For  1995
Inventing the Abbotts  1997
U Turn  1997
Return to Paradise  1998
Clay Pigeons  1998
8 MM  1999
The Yards  2000
Gladiator  2000
Quills  2000
Buffalo Soldiers  2001
Signs  2002
It's All About Love  2003
Brother Bear  2003
The Village  2004
Hotel Rwanda  2004
Ladder 49  2004
Walk the Line  2005
We Own the Night  2007
Reservation Road  2007
Two Lovers  2008 (
I'm Still Here  2010
The Master  2012
Back Beyond  2012
The Immigrant  2013
Her  2013 (
Inherent Vice  2014
Irrational Man  2015
You Were Never Really Here  2017
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot  2018
Mary Magdalene  2018
The Sisters Brothers  2018
Lou  2018
Joker  2019
Far Bright Star
Title: Re: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: Sandy on August 29, 2019, 11:58:44 PM

Dear Her,

We’ve just spent the last two hours together and it’s everything and more than I could have hoped for. I’d been waiting for a chance to meet you and get to know you for a long time and now that I have, I understand what the anticipation was about. You speak my language. You explore what it means to love and how love looks in its growth and development and all the way to grief and acceptance. But you go even further. You share with me what it means to love oneself and this love is found by putting aside fears, preconceived notions, comparisons and the expectations of others, for they are burdens that only keep us from ourselves. Shedding that which holds us back and moving forward to self-discovery, now there’s a journey.

Amy said, “We’re only here briefly and while I’m here, I want to allow myself… joy.” Thank you for showing me your view into what it means to feel joy. And I don’t mean just happiness, for happiness is fleeting, but joy, that’s a different level all together. It’s feeling and embracing the happiness along with the pain, knowing they only exist because of the other. Without them both, we’re not really living. I’ll remember our time together and I promise to allow myself joy too.


Title: Re: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: colonel_mexico on August 30, 2019, 12:30:19 AM
/me following
Title: Re: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: smirnoff on August 30, 2019, 01:06:02 AM
I'm Joaquin on sunshine, whaaaoooo. :)
Title: Re: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: 1SO on August 30, 2019, 03:42:53 AM
Interesting subject. I can see myself joining you for Reservation Road, Don't Worry He Won't Get Far on Foot and I'm Still Here.
Title: Re: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on August 30, 2019, 08:03:34 AM
Great idea for a marathon. He's one of my favorite actors right now and has an impressive body of work.
Title: Re: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: Sandy on August 31, 2019, 11:29:45 PM
:). Thanks guys! I'm looking forward to your thoughts about these films as I go along.
Title: Re: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: Sandy on September 08, 2019, 09:21:12 AM
The Immigrant


I don't have the luxury of watching this four times through to examine the performances with a fine tooth comb, so this will have to be a type of tintype; sepiad images flashing behind my eyes, as I recall moments suspended there. What I see is a visual feast; where fabrics and faces are equally accentuated with light and shadow, and the metal, wood, and glass of the locations are reverently highlighted. Sigh. All elements combine, to paint the most vivid moving picture. This is what thoughtful, intentional movies do.

But, I'm not here to write about all of that! I'm here to ponder on one element. The actor. This is Marion Cotillard's vehicle through and through. She's why I initially chose to see this and she's why this movie is in existence. Maybe I should do a marathon on her as well. :) The way emotions play across her face is fascinating to watch and all the while, she has an uncanny way of pulling me into her experience. She's that good and she basically hands Joaquin Phoenix the opportunity to match her level of investment. Level of investment is nothing new to Joaquin Phoenix though! This is his signature stance. This is the through line of every character he's ever inhabited. So, watching these two play off each other is a collaborative wrestling match and their scenes are all the better for it.

At the beginning of the movie, I was a little concerned because I was getting a real whispery, Lucius vibe from The Village. Is this all Joaquin has to offer? Is he one note? That's not fair to say, because Lucius is far from one note. He is a myriad of notes, but I didn't want to see Lucius again. I wanted to see Bruno. Slowly, the character unfolded and familiar components shifted and revealed a different character entirely. It must be a lot like Tom Hanks, for it's impossible not to aware of him and yet after a bit, he too slides so readily into a character, that you forget for a little while his past embodiments. After a bit, Bruno erases what's his name and The Village is left far behind.

Bruno's bravado and grasping nature coincide causatively with his internal emptiness. He's a hollow shell and the initial shallowness I perceived was wholly intentional. Don't I feel sheepish? :) I'm going to be surprised a lot in this marathon, aren't I? Joaquin's range of quiet and storm are not surprising to me though. It's just the when and where that I have to watch out for!

And as for the meta note, I hope Ewa's words to Bruno also sunk into the actor. "You are not nothing."
Title: Re: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: oldkid on September 09, 2019, 09:32:54 AM
What a great idea for a marathon!  Following
Title: Re: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on September 09, 2019, 01:37:05 PM
Great thoughts, Sandy. This is very much Cotillard's film, but Phoenix holds his own in his scenes opposite her. I think a lot of credit should go to James Gray for directing them so well and knowing when to let the acting do the emotional talking and when to use images to convey emotions. Those last few shots really got to me.
Title: Re: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: Sandy on September 09, 2019, 04:03:46 PM
I just watched the ending again. Amazing what a well placed mirror can create, framing wise. Side by side departures. :')

What a great idea for a marathon!  Following

Title: Re: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: Sandy on September 22, 2019, 12:00:56 AM
Two Lovers


And there's a rose in a fisted glove…
Don’t be angry, don't be sad
And don't sit crying over good times you had
There's a girl right next to you
And she's just waiting for something to do
. - "Love The One You're With"

It’s kind of hard to hate this song, even though it feels so blasé about loyalty. The compelling tune and the pep talk chorus charm the moral police right out of you. The power of music! Watch out!

I used to think of the poor girl in the song who is far away, but the Two Lovers' story makes me worry for the “next to you girl.” How could she ever be enough to surpass the specter of a heart's desire? Is there a winner in this scenario, or does everyone lose?

The Graduate taught me to never trust compulsive declarations, for desperation as a decision maker, makes poor decisions... I’m just here playing with words, because the subject matter is scary and all too real and I don't know what to do with it... Okay. Loving someone out of obligation, or making do, or out of fear of being alone, is so sad. But, what is sadder, is that it’s probably more true than not. So why try at all? Did you see Phoenix's Leonard in the stairwell talking to his mom? He was beside himself with happiness. How can we not chase that feeling?

Observing Phoenix’s body language in that scene is a wonder. He uses the stairs to help contain his head so it won't fly up like a balloon. Or, when he's in the restaurant, his movements are so funny and perfectly awkward. Talk about not being comfortable in your own skin. Phoenix's body language is worth a trip through a movie all on its own and so is focusing just on his eyes. There’s just so much there and with only one time through, I'm hard pressed to catch it all. The director, James Grey said Phoenix was always asking him,  “What can I bring to it; what detail can I bring to it that makes it sing with life?”

And such a song he sings.
Title: Re: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: oldkid on October 19, 2019, 10:25:07 PM
I like your review much better than the film.
Title: Re: Joaquin Phoenix - An Examined Life
Post by: Sandy on October 27, 2019, 11:23:31 PM
I like your review much better than the film.

Thank you, old kid. :)