It’s always interesting to hear what great directors have to say about films that have also garnered high praise. Todd Phillips JOKER was met with a polarizing response from some critics but that didn’t stop the film from scoring big at the box office and collecting several Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix, who ended taking the top prize home. Joker has remained a part of the pop culture conversation since its release and that remains true as it became part of the discussion on a three-hour podcast between Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright for “Empire.” Tarantino didn’t hold back when it came to his reception of the film which seems to range from lukewarm to it being a profound theatrical experience but one thing is certain: He loved the talk show scene.
The scene in question that Tarantino seems to love the most is the talk show sequence which features Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck, having fully gone off his rocker, appearing on Murray Franklin’s (Robert De Niro) talk show in full clown regalia that is a signature of the character we have come to know as Joker. Fleck delivers an uncomfortable but riveting speech about society looking down on the mentally ill before the scene takes a shockingly violent turn. Tarantino felt that the sequence sent the film to a whole new level and he states “It gets to the talk show scene, and you feel the entire atmosphere in the theater change.” Tarantino goes on to explain in detail why the scene really worked for him:
“The subversion on a massive level, the thing that’s profound is this: It’s not just suspenseful, it’s not just riveting and exciting, the director subverts the audience because the Joker is a fucking nut. Robert De Niro’s talk show character is not a movie villain. He seems like an asshole, but he’s not more of an asshole than David Letterman. He’s just an asshole comedian, talk show guy.””He’s not a movie villain. He doesn’t deserve to die. Yet, while the audience is watching the Joker, they want him to kill Robert De Niro; they want him to take that gun, and stick it in his eye and blow his fucking head off. And if the Joker didn’t kill him? You would be pissed off. That is subversion on a massivelevel! They got the audience to think like a fucking lunatic and to want [Arthur to kill Murray]. And they will lie about it! They will say, ‘no, I didn’t [want it to happen]!,’ and they are fucking liars. They did.”
Despite Tarantino’s love for the scene, the director did go on to say he thought the film was “one-note” and seemed to take issue with the fact that the film uses a clear template of films that came before it:
“Is this where we live now? Take great movies from the ’70s and redo them as pop-cultural artifacts? Taxi Driver as the Joker, Apocalypse Now as Ad Astra, is everything some weird pop culture artifact of a challenging movie from another time?”
Even with that criticism, Tarantino seemed to really have a true experience seeing Joker in the theater and he feels like this was the best way to become immersed in the film. The director says “It’s not suspense, it’s beyond suspense. They are riveted. Everybody is completely plugged in, If You saw this movie on an airplane, if you watch this movie streaming, if you watch this movie on DVD, you didn’t f*cking see the movie. You got a handjob as opposed to having great sex. You got a handjob as opposed to a threesome.”
Quentin Tarantino is a very passionate filmmaker with a lot in that head of his and it’s evident in his assessment of Joker. Everyone isn’t going to agree with him about the film and I still have friends that debate whether it’s great or complete and utter trash but that’s the fun in having a difference of opinion about filmmaking. People are going to perceive films differently and Joker is probably one of the better recent examples of that fact.
Do YOU agree with Quentin Tarantino’s assessment of Joker?