This was partly overshadowed by Joaquin Phoenix's decision to quit acting and become a hip-hop artist. But it's also just too different from the rest of the American film market. Now that Casey Affleck has revealed Phoenix's jump to hip-hop was just another performance, perhaps people will realize Phoenix is one of the greatest actors of his generation and check out Two Lovers. More likely, Phoenix was never a megastar and the hip-hop-hoax won't generate the buzz it could've had this been a move made by, say, Pitt or Dicaprio. I don't think I've seen any actor communicate obsessive infatuation as honestly and colorfully as Phoenix does here. There is intensity and mystique built into his persona, something animalistic and physical and screw-it-I'm-mumbling, like Brando, but I'll go as far as to say that there's something more than Brando, a wealth of deep-seated devotedness and tenderness. It gives him the compassion and innocence he needs here, in moments with Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw, and especially with his mother, played by Isabella Rossellini with subtle knowingness and affection (It also worked for him in Quills).
Phoenix embodies what I want for my lead in Intoxicated. The way he impulsively starts to follow Paltrow's character to the subway, then comically pretends to be looking at the subway map as Paltrow finally sees him... The way he leaps to pick up his cell phone at the first sound of a buzz... Director James Gray lets him perform without cutting the picture a mile a minute (as was the problem with Marion Cotillard's turn as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose).
Gray is inspired by the best. His music choices are extremely evocative, including high-class opera and a more pedestrian but just as lyrical acoustic guitar waltz performed by Christopher Spelman. His camera movements are great as well, not to mention his use of slow-mo.
From watching this masterclass/interview, it really seems that my ambitions are close to his. A merge of "truth" and "spectacle," he says. This clip is long, but he's articulate and perceptive:
And here is the Two Lovers trailer: