After a year of bizarre talk show appearances, club dates that ended in stage falls and audience brawls, rumors of a retirement from moviemaking and a co-sign from Diddy, the first trailer for the long-rumored Joaquin Phoenix film "I'm Sill Here; The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix" surfaced online on Monday (August 16).
While it's still unclear if the movie, directed by Phoenix's brother-in-law Casey Affleck, is a straight chronicle of the Oscar-winning actor's foray into the world of hip-hop or a "This Is Spinal Tap"-like send-up, fans looking for clues in the one-minute trailer will likely be confounded all over again.
The clip begins with a quick glimpse of a narrator, shot from behind (he appears to be actor Edward James Olmos), pointing to water droplets on a black table. He tells an intense-looking Phoenix, bearded and wearing a gray wool hat, "That's you, drops of water, and you're on top of the mountain, a success, but one day you start sliding down the mountain and you think, 'Wait a minute, I'm a mountaintop water drop, I don't belong in this valley. This river, this low dark ocean with all these drops of water.' "
As the voiceover continues, a succession of quickly cut images unfolds: Phoenix facing a phalanx of flash-wielding photographers at a movie premiere; Phoenix rapping on stage; Phoenix gazing longingly out of the window of a limousine while wearing dark shades, then hiding his head under a jacket in the same car; and Phoenix getting fitted for a black suit, then sitting, with his arms crossed defiantly, for a photo shoot.
The ominous voiceover — accompanied by a spare, haunting keyboard drone — goes on as we see Phoenix making his way past photogs on his way into the David Letterman studios. He poses uncomfortably for the shooters at a premiere for his "final" movie, "Two Lovers," and holds his head in seeming frustration while pacing around a hotel room.
"Then one day it gets hot and you slowly evaporate into air, way up, higher than any mountaintop, all the way to the heavens," the unseen voice continues over a quick montage that shows Phoenix in a recording studio, walking unsteadily down a hotel corridor, boarding a private jet and hugging Diddy.
The actor's name flashes on the screen as we see him laughing manically while belted into the backseat of a car, attending a swanky Hollywood party, looking pensively into the distance as his distended belly juts out, diving off a club stage to confront a heckler, wrestling in a hotel room with another man, being escorted by his handlers from a venue and laying his verses on another rapper backstage while pumping his fist and wearing a hoodie.
"Then you understand that it was at your lowest that you were closest to God. Life's a journey that goes round and round and the end is closest to the beginning. So it's change you need. Relish the journey," the narrator says over images of Phoenix in church and staring into space just before taking the stage.
The movie is slated to hit theaters on September 10. Eamonn Bowles, president of its distributor Magnolia Pictures, said, "No matter what I thought coming in, I came out feeling this was a pretty amazing piece of work, jaw-dropping but dimensional.
"It is going to get a lot of attention, but it is not some cheap stunt where they said, 'Let's do some wild stuff and film it,' " he explained. "It is extreme behavior, but really good filmmaking as well. Frankly, some of the behavior is very extreme. But it is in the context of the insanity of being in Joaquin's life for that period of time. It is a unique piece of work that is going to surprise people in different ways."
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