In 2019, it is beyond ironic that the last gasp for method, setting-focused ensemble work on a cape-and-CG dominated cinematic stage is within the superhero tentpole. “Beyond” because irony barely has a pulse when the insidious meme has mulched thesis and antithesis into ADHD-riddled snark.*
As a musician (and come to think of it, writer) who carefully assembles improvised riffs and elements, I identify more than a little with the way that Joker, as a movie — as a character — creates narrative. Riff, rift, repeat.
“The last day of shooting we did a scene with seven wildly different takes. That was the last thing we shot. So [up until the end] we were still thinking of ideas, what could we do differently.”
With many bloated exceptions, comedy is a form of entertainment that thrives within non-CG parameters — two ferns and a baby is stretching it. A lone microphone, the phantom smoke of unlit cigarette, proves ample stand-in for an apartment room, an airport waiting lounge, a food truck, a flute-haunted beach.
While not exactly low budget, the Joker is that rare film (I’m also thinking of another Joaquin Phoenix vehicle, the Master) in which the director spent the money on the types of things that matter. Props, actors with real lines, scenes with individuality and vernacular. No erasure of age through CG, whether for purposes of plot line, novelty, or stupid vanity.
In its assured narrative form, Joker hearkens back to what the Raging Bull renegades let loose in the old studio china shop, striking blows against artificiality through sheer purpose and stagecraft, at a time when there was a coherently informed audience (read: stoned?) to impress.
What strikes me is that — unlike many contemporary movies set in the pre-digital past, Joker is not afraid of its shadow, the specter of device and beat — the looming, unalterable presence of technology in the wings. Maybe this is because the director and actor have assumed responsibility, flame or fail — there is no burden of the “crossover” to nail it to a superhero cross.** The film’s makers, if not its funders, are not losing sleep over whether it will sell tickets in Bangor, Rio, Moscow, or Beijing.
And if it bombs? Cancel culture says it never happened. No crossover, no proba, brada.
“The reason why I choose movies is the filmmaker. I thought that Todd had a really unique understanding of this world and the character, and great sensibilities. I knew that he liked to work in a loose way at times, and there was also this really solid script.”
Also. The artwork is on sale at damonarvid.com. I think the nice price is $500 each, $850 for the set. Don't blame me, I'm just the unpaid hack. Anyway, investment.