Showing all posts tagged: Joaquin Phoenix

Napoleon, a bio-pic by Ridley Scott, parles-tu Francais?

24 July 2023

Napoleon, a bio-pic by Ridley Scott, film still

Still from Napoleon, a film by Ridley Scott.

British filmmaker Ridley Scott takes on the life of French military leader, and former emperor of the French Empire, Napoleon Bonaparte, in his new bio-pic feature, Napoleon. American actor Joaquin Phoenix stars in the lead role, along with Vanessa Kirby as Josephine, Napoleon’s wife, and Catherine Walker portraying the doomed Marie-Antoinette.

Although the majority of characters in Napoleon are French, the cast speaks in English, or at least they do in the film’s trailer. One detail though that has rankled some film commentators, is Phoenix’s seemingly unabashed American accent, a stark contrast to the predominantly British accents employed by the rest of the cast.

I can’t say I detected Phoenix’s American accent, or any particular accent for that matter, when I watched the trailer. I was more focussed on trying to comprehend what Phoenix’s Napoleon was saying, full stop, something Allegra Frank, writing for The Daily Beast, also picked up on:

It takes until the 35-second mark for us to hear Napoleon speak at all, with the trailer mostly cutting to him slightly parting his lips and staring ahead. But then we hear Phoenix mumble quietly for the first time, while facing down a rival army: “I promise you a billion successes.” At least, I think he says “billion;” his take on Napoleon is terrible at enunciating.

Napoleon opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday 23 November 2023, according to Flicks Australia.


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Beau Is Afraid, a batshit crazy new film with Joaquin Phoenix

10 April 2023

Beau Is Afraid, trailer, is the latest feature by American screenwriter and filmmaker Ari Aster. If there were only one word to sum up Aster’s work, uncomfortable would surely be it. His 2018 debut, Heredity, a supernatural thriller, about a family whose members become possessed by demons, was described as “harrowing” and “disturbing”.

Midsommar, his second feature made in 2020, portrays a couple who find themselves in the grip of a pagan cult. While Midsommar also unsettled audiences, it didn’t enjoy quite the same critical reception as Heredity. The impact Beau Is Afraid has on audiences remains to be seen, but with a billing as “surrealist black comedy horror”, it seems likely to linger in the minds of viewers long after the screening ends.

Beau Is Afraid, a Kafkaesque nightmare comedy

Beau Wassermann (Joaquin Phoenix) is a jittery middle-aged man, who is burdened with self-doubt. He is the son of a domineering mother, and a father he never knew. When his mother dies suddenly, Beau sets off for his childhood home. But the journey he takes is no ordinary one. It is more of an odyssey, a surreal odyssey. He traverses nightmare like dreamscapes, as a boy and an old man, where he comes face to face with his (plentiful) fears and insecurities along the way.

Interestingly, Beau Is Afraid is based on a short film Aster made in 2011 called Beau. Aster’s short is about a middle-aged man who attempts to visit his mother, but is unable to leave home after his house keys mysteriously vanish. Their disappearance sets in motion a sequence of strange and terrifying events. While Beau featured Billy Mayo, Aster has turned to Joaquin Phoenix to portray the troubled lead in Beau Is Afraid.

Joaquin Phoenix, master of the dark streak

A filmmaker would be hard pressed to find a more talented actor to take on the role of the depraved — albeit outwardly mild-mannered — Beau, than Puerto Rican born American actor Phoenix. His work in Todd Phillips’ 2019 feature, Joker, an origin story about Batman’s long-time nemesis, speaks for itself. But Phoenix’s ability to layer darkness upon the characters he portrays came to the fore in 2005’s Walk the Line, James Mangold’s biopic of late American country singer Johnny Cash.

When it comes to drawing out the dark streak in a person, Phoenix might be in his element though when he is the subject. This was the case in the Casey Affleck made mockumentary I’m Still Here, from 2010. Here Phoenix — in collaboration with Affleck — succeeded in making audiences believe he was giving up his acting career to become a hip hop artist. The ruse had credibility after Phoenix had earlier told television host David Letterman this was his intention.

But it was the candid scenes of Phoenix’s private life, while at home, that possibly left a lasting impression on those who saw I’m Still Here. Without spoiling proceedings too much more for those yet to partake, there was plenty that could not be unseen, nor unheard. From the little we’ve seen of Phoenix’s portrayal of Beau so far, calling it a comedic exaggeration and extension of Phoenix’s portrayal of himself in I’m Still Here, may not be too far off the mark.

Beau Is Afraid by Ari Aster, film poster

Beau Is Afraid is not for the faint of heart

Unless, that is, a three hour foray — yes, that’s right, Beau Is Afraid has a run time of almost three hours — of Kafkaesque proportions, into the mind of a disturbed person, is your thing. Quite possibly though Aster’s third feature may have been longer. During a discussion in June 2020, with the Associated Students Program Board, Aster said he was working on a “nightmare comedy” of four hours duration, that, at the time, was named Disappointment Blvd.

Four hours of Kafkaesque nightmare comedy might have been a bit much though. Three hours seemed like a struggle as it was, especially for Phoenix, with reports that he fainted during filming of a particularly intense scene.

When do we get to see this?

Beau Is Afraid had its world premiere at a surprise screening in New York, on Saturday 1 April 2023, in what was something of an April fool’s joke. Attendees were under the impression they were going to see a director’s cut of Midsommar, until Emma Stone, the event’s MC, informed them otherwise.

Beau Is Afraid meanwhile opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday 20 April 2023.


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Wait a minute, Joker: Folie à deux is going to be a musical?

16 June 2022

A sequel to American filmmaker Todd Phillips’ 2019 feature Joker, trailer, is on the way. We’ve seen the photos of the cover of the script, and, although he’s yet to confirm his participation, Joaquin Phoenix reading it. We’ve been told the working title is Joker: Folie à deux. It has also been reported that Lady Gaga may co-star, portraying Harley Quinn. So far, so good.

But then someone goes and says the sequel is going to be a musical. I’m not sure what to make of this. On one hand it seems quite apt. The Joker is a theatrical character. I can see how that would work. But for a story imbued with the darkness that permeates the world’s favourite villain? I’m not sure about that. This will be something to see…


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