First critics were stumped, now film festival fans are just as perplexed after seeing Joaquin Phoenix's latest movie and are still wondering: is he punking us or is he in the throes of a serious mental collapse? "There is no hoax," director Casey Affleck told reporters at the Venice Film Festival, where his movie about Phoenix, I'm Still Here, has captivated audiences. Affleck concedes, however: "I understand how a lot of this movie could be confusing in terms of, 'Oh well, it seems like something's real or not.'" The zen-like film follows Phoenix's bizarre, perhaps genuine, transformation from top actor to shambolic hip-hop wannabe after turning his back on Hollywood two years ago.
The change appeared to the public to be the travels of an increasingly erratic actor dissolving at the seams—or it could be a filmed "art" odyssey serving as scathing criticism of Hollywood and celebrity, notes Reuters. Joaquin, sometimes composed in the movie, other times churlish and disheveled, is shown surfing the web for hookers, taking drugs and being shot down by Sean Combs, who refuses to produce Phoenix's album. Combs "was the hammer that crushed the dream," Affleck explains punkishly. "All of that is a little bit of an act."