Joker, the new DC movie starring Joaquin Phoenix, drew an eight-minute standing ovation this weekend at its Venice Film Festival premiere.
Debuting Saturday night (August 31) at the historic Sala Grande, both Phoenix and director Todd Phillips were present, as was Zazie Beetz, who stars as Phoenix’s character’s neighbour.
Joker tells the origin story of Batman’s infamous arch-villain. It stars Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a mentally troubled man who later transforms into the iconic comic book charlatan.
According to Variety, buzz in Venice had been growing steadily for the movie after it was first announced that it would feature as part of the festival. The eight-minute standing ovation came on the heels of two press screenings, one of which garnered rapturous applause at the end and cheers when Phoenix’s name appeared during the closing credits.
In a five-star review for NME, Greg Wetherall called Joker an “instant classic that sees Joaquin Phoenix translate a discombobulating sensation from the screen to your senses, while director Todd Phillips creates a melancholic psychodrama punctuated by splashes of shocking violence.”
Speaking at the Venice Film Festival on how he prepared to become Joker, Phoenix said: “The first thing for us was the weight loss — I think that’s really what I started with. And, as it turns out, that then affects your psychology. You start to go mad when you lose that amount of weight in that amount of time.
“There’s a book that I read about political assassins and would-be assassins that I thought was really interesting, and kind of breaks down the different types of personalities that do those sorts of things.”
Something else that helped him transform into the character was Fleck’s journal/joke book, filled with his embittered musings on life and its many absurdities.
“Very early on in the rehearsal, I was given the journal that he had — his journal and joke diary. And that was really helpful, because I had been there for a couple of weeks and wasn’t sure how I was going to start, and Todd sent this [empty] journal,” he recalled. “I didn’t know what to write, so I asked [Todd] for some suggestions, and after a few days, I ignored his suggestions and suddenly it was coming out. It became a really important part of the discovery of the character at that time.”
The director has already set his sights on a second instalment – owing to the quality of Phoenix’s performance as the comic book villain.