(Warner Bros. Pictures)
Do you remember how Jared Leto’s Joker had the word “damaged” tattooed on his forehead? Do you remember when Jack Nicholson’s joker laughed “You can not make an omelette … without breaking eggs” and pointed it out by breaking Jerry Hall’s mask with his fist? Do you remember when Heath Ledger Joker cheerfully made a pencil disappear? Yes, well, none of this happens in Todd Phillips’ joker.
Until the last act, that is to say when the version of the character of Joaquin Phoenix emerges completely from the chrysalid seriously screwed of his character of the daily Arthur Fleck. Before that moment, his alleged acts of violence were not celebrated, nor calculated, nor even particularly absurd, which the famous readers of scripts revealed by Joker noticed. “It’s so realistic!” Said the chorus enthused in Reddit’s discussions devoted to document analysis. Although some aspects have changed since this draft scenario, a dirty nature and punished a million miles of capes or female guardians or vats of acid remains in the film presented at the Venice Film Festival. As unstable, unpleasant and antisocial as Fleck is, there is no supernatural evil in him, only a frustrated desire and a mental illness. The outside world in Fleck’s mind is malicious, a world that, as Arthur says to his social worker, is “getting worse”.
In the last few hours since Joker debuted, or is expected to blow up, about one billion to the Italian public, about a billion words have been written about him, and about how fat, agitated performance and deeply agitated Phoenix compares to previous wilders. The film is not only part of Batman’s extended mythology, it is part of a comic genre that Batman and his main DC Comics characters are only subsets of. But Joker does not look like any of the previous superhero movies. It drifts with an artistic seriousness and a blatant provocation, grouped in a recognizable intellectual property, which means that Joker will reach a much wider audience than an independent independent title.
It’s not just the R rating that distinguishes Todd Phillips’s film. There had been comedy movies with an R rating before: “Blade”, “Kick-Ass”, “Deadpool”, marked by excess blood and sexual content and children using the word c. Joker, on the other hand, has a cloudy morality that does not match the good / bad binaries of the usual superhero movies. (However, in terms of violence, this R is instantly won in a scene in which Arthur hits a colleague with his hands, a pair of scissors and the tip of his sordid apartment). The closest comparison in the genre is probably Logan, by James Mangold, noted R, an ode to a broken and aged Wolverine forced to become dishonest, which similarly contained references to classical cinema. But the crucial difference is that Wolverine, although reluctant, is a hero. Arthur is not at all.
Joker borrows from the texture and tone of previous films, absorbing the history of cinema as superheroes. He refers directly to Taxi Driver (Arthur mimes exploiting his brain with a pistol) and to the king of comedy (Arthur wants to be a comic and is obsessed by a talk show host played by Robert de Niro). These are difficult and provocative films for adults. In 2019, Joker goes back to 1970s cinema, in the era of the anti-hero, when radical ideas, nonconformist talents, and clearly anti-cultural sensibilities briefly dominated Hollywood, before the successful culture dominated them. invade.
And now, the blockbuster is a conquering beast and multiple colonizer, and its most successful model is the comic film, bringing back the story of Joker’s development. As convincing and effective as Joker is, this alone does not justify its existence. Do we really need a supervised comic book like Travis Bickle, while we already have Travis Bickle? Are we so excited about superhero movies that we can only understand the tragic irony of an edifying tale like The King of Comedy when he goes back to work and will include a piece where Bruce Wayne’s parents are killed for the umpteenth time under a shower of shots and scattered beads? Critics are already wondering if the superhero movies will be the same after the Joker or not, but perhaps we should also worry about the rest of the movie world.