Director Casey Affleck's revelation last week that Joaquin Phoenix did not, in fact, lost his mind for the documentary I'm Still Here was a turn of events most people regarded as predictable and infuriating (and even predictably infuriating). This is a mistake, cautions Alex Balk at The Awl. The fact that pretty much everyone saw through the stunt doesn't diminish its impact. Explains Balk:
All great work requires risk, and that is indeed something that Phoenix and Affleck took, even if they were remarkably maladroit in the execution...Don't we want our artists' reach to exceed their grasp? Wouldn't we rather be given the gift of something timeless that results from a willingness to fall on one's face rather than a strict adherence to playing it safe? The greatest moments in film, theater, literature—any of the arts, really—come from those who were prepared to face the scorn and derision of the crowd because somewhere deep within they had a vision that they were willing to see through to completion. They believed when no one else did. That some of these visions are juvenile and worthless ideas on the world-historical scale of failure that Affleck and Phoenix ushered forth only makes the successes shine that much more brightly...It's not pretty, but great art rarely is.... In many ways you could say that Phoenix and Affleck are some of the most important artists of their age because they have shown us just how difficult it is to pull something off, especially if you have no talent for the type of creation you are attempting in the first place. They deserve to be recognized as such.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.