Send in the crowns: in trumping Venice competition, Joker begins grand slam | Xan Brooks

The victory for Todd Phillipss revisionist comic book blockbuster is a credit to a festival in touch with crazed politics, contemporary paranoia and superb cinema

Todd Phillips Joker spins the tale of a pathetic loser who ends up a winner, the low-class upstart who upsets the applecart and explodes the establishment. Nobody least of all Joaquin Phoenixs snivelling party entertainer believed he stood a snowballs chance in hell. But his message hit home and the voters clamoured change and we live in interesting times where the old rules dont apply.


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As with the man, so with the film. Since its grand unveiling at the Venice film festival last weekend, Phillipss revisionist comic-book blockbuster – charting the formative years of Batmans nemesis – has had the critics worrying at it like a ham-bone tugged between a pack of dogs. Its been hailed as a fiery socialist call-to-arms and damned as a cynical instruction manual for incel vigilantes. Its been seen as left-wing; its been seen as right-wing. Its politics are so turbulent, so unrefined – and yes, arguably garbled – that they sprawl and crawl beyond traditional party boundaries. Much, it might be said, as real-world politics has a tendency to do these days.

Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there? asks Phoenixs antihero near the start of the film. And this was a question that – with variations – was being posed again and again on social media as Lucrecia Martels Venice jury decided to hand the Golden Lion to Joker ahead of the numerous other, more favoured candidates. Most onlookers were fine with Martin Edens brooding Luca Marinelli winning the best actor prize and Gloria Mundis Ariane Ascaride being named best actress. And you could almost hear the collective sigh of satisfaction when the directing award went to Swedens Roy Andersson for his inimical About Endlessness. In any other year, the decision to lavish the Silver Lion effectively the events second prize on the disgraced Roman Polanski for his historical thriller An Officer and a Spy would have provided the nights biggest controversy. Except that the jury had a final twist in store.

Phillips and Phoenix with their award. Photograph: Alessandra Benedetti – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Is it the wrong choice: Europes oldest film festival falling over itself to honour a Hollywood studio blockbuster? Only insofar as Joker hardly needs the attention and there are other, smaller productions (off the top of my head: Pablo Larrains Ema and Haifa al-Mansours The Perfect Candidate) which would have benefited from a leg-up. But if the remit is to reward the competitions most bold and ambitious production, then why not Joker? Phillipss film is slippery, divisive and borderline irresponsible in its climactic call to arms. But its also exuberant, exciting and at times genuinely radical the sort of movie that takes a gleeful delight in pushing the envelope; in taking three steps further than you imagine it will. I loved the film when I saw it and its been buzzing in my head ever since. Jokers set-up was fabulous and its punchline was devastating. But tonights killing joke is what really brought the whole house down.

Original Article : HERE ;


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