A hoax? Joaquin Phoenix film gets viewers guessing

Mon Sep 6, 2010 11:05pm 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 International Film Festival.

"I'm Still Here" marks the directing debut of actor Casey Affleck, Phoenix's brother-in-law, who told reporters on Monday that the film was no fake.

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 infamous television interview with talk-show host 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. "That never even entered into my consciousness until other people began to talk about the movie."

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'."

Phoenix arrived on the Lido, clean-shaven, smartly dressed and looking in good shape -- in contrast with his disheveled, bearded and overweight appearance in the film. He did not turn up at the red carpet for the premiere.   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>