Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Joaquin Phoenix Walks the Line

The Legend of the Man in Black

By David Luhrssen
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Johnny Cash walked into the rockabilly scene sideways, almost by accident, yet has become the early rock’n’roll figure most admired by generations unconceived during the 1950s and ‘60s. Joaquin Phoenix stepped into a set of myth-size shoes when he took the role of Cash in the 2005 film Walk theLine (out now on Blu-ray).

With his hard, fathomless eyes and stolid, chiseled face, Phoenix was well cast to play the Man in Black as the singer is remembered nowadays. Backed by the stoic Tennessee Two, Joaquin’s Cash is a brooding man with a biblical awareness of the transience and tragedy of this world, gazing implacably on the vanity and injustice of society. Reese Witherspoon is fetching as the troubled love of his life, June Carter.

Walk the Line can be criticized for taking the shortcuts common to Hollywood biographies by collapsing the complexity of reality into the carefully composed narrative of mythology. That said, director James Mangold and screenwriter Gill Dennis did fine work encapsulating Cash’s inspiration and crossroads moments as quick, sometimes subtly memorable scenes.

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