Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 


Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a man disregarded by society, who is tired of being 'invisible'.

Review by Louise Keller:
Edgy and darkly disturbing, Joker takes flight on the wings of a sensational performance by Joaquin Phoenix. It's a complex and complete interpretation of a psychopath whose sense of being invisible is countered by violence. The pitch of the hysteria emanating from the laughter of a man camouflaged by the painted face of a clown is as unsettling as fingernails on a blackboard. Winner of the Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, this is the chilling backstory of Batman's greatest adversary and one of cinema's most memorable villains. While the character may come from the superhero universe, Todd Phillips' film stands alone as a pathos-filled characterization imbuing today's social dilemmas in praise of the vigilante in an anti-establishment culture. Worth seeing for Phoenix's performance alone, this is an electric shock of a movie that is both affecting and thought provoking.

We first meet Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) in his dressing room as he paints a freakish red smile over his clown face. He pulls his lips, distorts his face and the charcoal around his eyes becomes smudged from disturbed tears. He is a man in torment. As the narrative progresses, we edge our way into the cracks of his existence - his relationship with his invalid mother (Frances Conroy), his attractive neighbor (Zazie Beetz), his social worker (Sharon Washington), the man he learns is his father (Brett Cullen) and the TV host who offers him a platform (Robert De Niro). Through each story strand, the cracks and baggage that devour Arthur become more pronounced.

Phillips uses different camera perspectives to unnerve us. The soundscape is effective, too, along with the choice of songs and colour grading. Watch for the scene when Phoenix performs magic tricks to young Bruce Wayne. And the train sequence, when the flickering of the lights as the train veers through a tunnel, provides a perfect eerie backdrop for bloodshed. The violence is in your face and confronting. It is not for the squeamish. Ultimately, the film belongs to Joaquin Phoenix. He is astonishing.

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(US, 2019)

CAST: Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Shea Whigham, Brett Cullen, Douglas Hodge, GlennFleshler

PRODUCER: Bradley Cooper, Todd Phillips, Emma Tillinger Koskoff

DIRECTOR: Todd Phillips

SCRIPT: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver


EDITOR: Jefff Groth

MUSIC: Hildur Guonadottir


RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes



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