***Update: Read full I’m Still Here review now!***

Besides Black Swan, the most talked about film at this year’s Venice Film Festival has been Casey Affleck’s documentary, I’m Still Here. It chronicles a (lost) year in the life of actor turned aspiring hip hop artist Joaquin Phoenix as he steps outside of his comfort zone to try something new. The reviews are in, and here’s a bit of what everyone is saying about the actor, the director, and the film.

Joaquin Phoenix’s Performance:

If it is a hoax, Phoenix is giving one of the greatest method performances of all time. Like its central character, the film is infuriating and provocative by turns.” … “The ridicule that is heaped on him arguably reveals just as much about celebrity-obsessed popular culture as it does about Phoenix himself. The film ends on a mildly redemptive but still mysterious note. [The Independent]

Fiction vs Reality:

“Elements of the film seem a bit too convenient, for instance there are multiple cameras with all the angles covered, leaving it sometimes feeling like a Christopher Guest or Larry Charles faux documentary rather than the real thing. And the film adheres to elements of film-fiction structure (things mentioned always have a plot functionality and are usually a set up for something later).” [Obessesed With Film]

I’m not sure I buy any of it, but the film is certainly compelling. Like a pair of po-faced co-conspirators, Affleck and Phoenix have cooked up an audacious little distraction; a stage-managed Hollywood Babylon that’s at once gaudily entertaining and wilfully self-indulgent. Who cares, finally, whether this is a documentary or not? I’m Still Here paints a convincing portrait of a miserable, frustrated actor who has lived so long in the goldfish bowl that he can no longer conceive of a life beyond acting. [The Guardian]

The Directing:

Affleck (who is married to Phoenix’s sister) catches the most intimate moments in the bizarre day-to-day existence of his subject in the months after Phoenix shocked Hollywood by announcing his retirement from film acting. Affleck is a disarming filmmaker. This seems like straight fly-on-the-wall reportage from the battle zone that is Phoenix’s life. However, I’m Still Here is cleverly crafted and edited and often very funny indeed. [The Independent]

Overall:

Result is an utterly fascinating experiment that apparently blends real and faked material to examine notions of celebrity, mental stability and friendship. Whatever auds may think of Phoenix, there’s no doubting his chutzpah, though biz will depend on the level of voyeuristic interest in his and co-helmer Casey Affleck’s strange, postmodern psychodrama.” … “I’m Still Here” could be read as a more meta version of the filmmaking method deployed by Sacha Baron Cohen in “Borat” and “Bruno.” Except that there might be something more tragic, troubling and weird going on here. [Variety]

We’ll have more on I’m Still Here when we post our complete review of the controversial doc. Stay tuned!