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Take a look at the photo above. It’s the most poetic image to have emerged from Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” and the reason I say “poetic” isn’t just because the shot has that caught-in-action indelible vibe of a quintessential movie poster: graphic, hauntingly composed, a bit shocking (at least, the first time you see it). It’s poetic because of what it means.
Arthur Fleck, wearing his full-on Joker regalia for the first time (rust suit, orange vest, smeary clown make-up, green hair), turns his face toward the sky as if smiling at a higher power. It’s a moment of worship; his posture and gaze are ecstatic. But it’s also as pure an image of a madman as Leatherface twirling his chainsaw in the dawn light at the end of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” Arthur is one sick puppy, a geek who uses fake laughter and fake smiles to conceal his unfathomable despair (and to billboard it too, since the fakery is so over-the-top that he’s really saying, I know this isn’t fooling you). But now, at this righteous moment, a current is running through him, something that has jolted him awake. With his face turned upward, he seems to be receiving a life force from above. He has embraced the dark side and seen the light. He has touched the liberating power of his hate.
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