There’s no denying the importance of real documentary work, but sometimes we just want to blur the line between reality and fiction, play with tropes and expectations. And nothing does that quite like mocumentaries.
I’M STILL HERE
So not everybody is in on the hoax. At my local Community Center Appalachian gym the other day, the woman next to me on the elliptical was approached by a friend describing the “very sad” film she’d seen at our local art house theatre – I’M NOT THERE. “It’s terrible,” she said. “You see this innocent young boy at the beginning of the film [hoax], and then by the end, after all these drugs and alcohol and fame, you see what he’s become [hoax].” It turns out that it’s a pretty amazing feat. You leave the theatre really zeroing in on particular moments …. How did they do that? Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix basically duped the media and used its venues and players as their sets and extras, reflecting on contemporary celebrity and the reporters who work there. But hoax is too strong (it’s just fun to say). It’s pure performance. Phoenix is playing “Himself,” says the credits, but he’s really not. He’s playing a desperate celebrity – maybe a version of himself, but a pretty spectacular one — who attacks strangers, shreds his ‘friends’ to ribbons with profanity rants and barfs violently into toilets. He was really barfing, wasn’t he? He lived this character in the moment to moment nonfiction landscape of reality, making the film the most hybrid of hybrids to come along in a good while, and I don’t mean a Prius. (That’s doc plus fiction, good sirs.)