A hoax? Joaquin Phoenix film gets viewers guessing

Mon Sep 6, 2010 2:21pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE (Reuters) - Whether a hoax or not, a new documentary about Joaquin Phoenix and his transition from acclaimed, brooding actor to bearded, shambolic hip-hop wannabe has captivated viewers at the Venice film festival.

"I'm Still Here" was directed by Casey Affleck, a successful actor and Phoenix's brother-in-law.

The guessing game over whether the picture was genuine documentary or ironic "mockumentary" poking fun at an intolerant and narrow-minded public and press began long before the release of the movie.

It mirrors internet chatter following Phoenix's now infamous television interview with David Letterman last year, when a confused, mumbling performance also prompted suspicions that it was all an elaborate act.

"I can tell you that there is no hoax," Affleck told reporters after his directorial debut was screened to reporters on Monday in Venice, where it is out of competition.

"That never even entered into my consciousness until other people began to talk about the movie," he added at a briefing where he was asked repeatedly about whether certain scenes, and the movie in general, were genuine.

But he conceded that audiences were likely to be confused.

"I'm very interested to hear those sorts of reactions and I appreciate that point of view, and I understand how a lot of this movie could be confusing in terms of, 'oh well, it seems like something's real or not real'."   Continued...

<p>Actor Joaquin Phoenix (C) arrives by a water taxi at the Excelsior Palace for the screening of the out-of-competition film "I'm Still Here" by Casey Affleck, during the 67th Venice Film Festival September 6, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>