Jose here. Last night after watching Two Lovers (my review here) there was one plea I kept repeating in my mind: please Joaquin Phoenix don't stop acting.
A lot was said earlier during the year about his retirement from acting and foray into rapping (I'm still trying to erase from my mind that unfunny, awkward Ben Stiller stint from the Oscars in February). And while he's been one of the most consistently fine actors in recent years (despite of some of the film choices he's made) and has received two Academy Award nominations this decade, he's truly remained underrated in a way.
People are used to his affecting Method acting and his superb impersonating skills (I still think his Johnny Cash from Walk the Line was robbed of the Best Actor Oscar), but when it comes to the one performance of his I think is pure genius, it's none other than the Abbe de Coulmier in Philip Kaufman's Quills.
The movie is a treasure chest of underrated performances (not even Kate Winslet got enough recognition for this!) perhaps because all of them were overshadowed by the extraordinary Geoffrey Rush playing the Marquis de Sade.
But back to Joaquin, notice how he literally inhabits the madhouse of Charendon in the movie. His every move is filled with grace and quiet domination. He might not be liked by all the patients, but he belongs there more than they do and they respect him for that.
His character is forced to go through "typical" movie problems priests must endure (duty vs. lust, good vs. evil etc...) but Phoenix manages overall to be human. His scenes with Winslet (who plays the virginal, sexy chambermaid of his dreams) sizzle with erotically charged innocence (sounds like an oxymoron, but you have to see these two together to understand).
His hidden passion and angst evoke Natalie Wood's glorious performance in Splendor in the Grass. You know they're going through something terrible, you wish to help them, but they exert a power over you that inspires guilty pleasure. Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar that year for screaming and hating Russell Crowe in Gladiator, but it was the Abbe who showed us the actor's divine gift.