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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

you’re not helping: Casey Affleck admits ‘I’m Still Here’ is a put-on

Just the other day, I asked whether the likes of Casey Affleck and his is-it-real-or-is-it-fake documentary I’m Still Here were contributing to the loss of trust in our institutions. Turns out, they are. From The New York Times:

Casey Affleck wants to come clean.

His new movie, “I’m Still Here,” was performance. Almost every bit of it. Including Joaquin Phoenix’s disturbing appearance on David Letterman’s late-night show in 2009, Mr. Affleck said in a candid interview at a cafe here on Thursday morning.

“It’s a terrific performance, it’s the performance of his career,” Mr. Affleck said. He was speaking of Mr. Phoenix’s two-year portrayal of himself — on screen and off — as a bearded, drug-addled aspiring rap star, who, as Mr. Affleck tells it, put his professional life on the line to star in a bit of “gonzo filmmaking” modeled on the reality-bending journalism of Hunter S. Thompson.

See? Just invoke some gonzo counterculture journalist from the happenin’ 1960s, and it’s all cool. I wonder what Thompson would make of his work being likened to this film.
But wait, there’s more:

Virtually none of it was real. Not even the opening shots, supposedly of Mr. Phoenix and his siblings swimming in a water hole in Panama. That, Mr. Affleck said, was actually shot in Hawaii with actors, then run back and forth on top of an old videocassette recording of “Paris, Texas” to degrade the images.

“I never intended to trick anybody,” said Mr. Affleck, an intense 35-year-old who spoke over a meat-free, cheese-free vegetable sandwich on Thursday. “The idea of a quote, hoax, unquote, never entered my mind.”

“I never intended to trick anybody.” Bull. Shit. It is unequivocably obvious that the intent was to trick everybody.

Kudos to Times reporter Michael Ceiply for that beautiful construction: meat-free, cheese-free vegetable sandwich. I have no doubt it’s meant to be an allusion to the film itself as something of little substance.

I could be wrong that I’m Still Here has no substance, of course. I still plan to check it out. I missed the only NYC press screening of the film, and I thought I might haul ass to the only theater in New York where it’s now playing, even though it couldn’t be more inconvenient to get to. But now I hear that the film will be available on demand in the U.S. next Friday, September 24. So I’ll catch it then from the comfort of my living room (on a TV that’s not much smaller than the screens in the theater where it’s currently playing).



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