September 07, 2019
The victory for Todd Phillips’s revisionist comic book blockbuster is a credit to a festival in touch with crazed politics, contemporary paranoia – and superb cinema
Send in the crowns: in trumping Venice competition, Joker begins grand slam | Xan Brooks
Todd Phillips’ Joker spins the tale of a pathetic loser who ends up a winner, the low-class upstart who upsets the applecart and explodes the establishment. Nobody – least of all Joaquin Phoenix’s snivelling party entertainer – believed he stood a snowball’s chance in hell. But his message hit home and the voters clamoured for change and we live in interesting times where the old rules don’t apply.
As with the man, so with the film. Since its grand unveiling at the Venice film festival last weekend, Phillips’s revisionist comic-book blockbuster - charting the formative years of Batman’s nemesis - has had the critics worrying at it like a ham-bone tugged between a pack of dogs. It’s been hailed as a fiery socialist call-to-arms and damned as a cynical instruction manual for incel vigilantes. It’s been seen as left-wing; it’s been seen as right-wing. Its politics are so turbulent, so unrefined - and yes, arguably garbled - that they sprawl and crawl beyond traditional party boundaries. Much, it might be said, as real-world politics has a tendency to do these days.
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