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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

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FRESH AIR: Director Todd Phillips is fascinated by what he calls “left-footed characters” — people who are “out of step with the world.” His most recent film, Joker, is an origin story — of sorts — for the villain in the Batman series. The movie stars Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a party clown and aspiring stand-up comic who lives in a city overcome by garbage, rats and unemployment. Cuts in social services mean that Arthur is unable to afford the medications he needs to manage his mental illness. As Arthur’s mental health deteriorates, he begins to adapt the villainous Joker persona. Phillips says the film began as an attempt to create a “deep-dive character study” within the genre of the comic book movie. “The whole M.O. of the film was, let’s make a comic book film where we run everything through as realistic a lens as possible,” he says. Joker has made more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office and garnered Phoenix a Golden Globe award for acting. But it’s also been criticized for glorifying violence. Phillips maintains the film is less about violence than it is about “documenting mayhem and chaos.” He was particularly interested in exploring the consequences of cutting social services for mental health.”We really thought it was important to shine a light on the system,” he says. “I think, like a lot of people, the system’s broken, and why not use a film to make a comment on that?” MORE

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