Joker In Concert Review | The Bridgewater Hall | Manchester
The times, they are a-changin’ and the latest instalment to the DC universe is far from the spectacle we have come to expect from the standard superhero movie. Bringing more nuance than deserved to a comic book character whose origins began with a pow, bang and wallop, 2019’s Joker has stripped sentimentality for the Wayne’s, reworking the off-kilter criminals roots to form a budding rivalry assigned by status.
The film plays with the Jokers favoured comic book foundation The Killing Joke and revising his “one bad day” blueprint into a lingering and unyielding decline over the years. Despite its director being known for The Hangover trilogy, the tale told by Todd Phillips and Scott Silver removes the cartoonish imagery, raising the vengeful figure as an ordinary but embittered antihero, rather than the standard crazed supervillain. Regardless of four memorable onscreen appearances harkening back to 1966, Joaquin Phoenix’s embodiment of the Joker does plenty to justify the villain’s revival.
Inside the Bridgewater Hall, a projection of the film onto a cinema size screen is shown above the live orchestra who play out a rendition of the films score. Forming a powerful and intense live show, the soundtrack that took home an Oscar and saw Hildur Guðnadóttir as the fourth woman to win the Academy Award for Best Score since The Full Monty (1997), is an eerie delight. The experimental and acoustic backing sets up the unnerving world of Gotham, but the film also includes flurries of pop music including Send In The Clowns, White Room and Rock and Roll Part 2 that are amplified by the surround sound.
With a focus on independent films revolving around 70’s cinema, the modern-day Joker reflects on a sick society riddled with corrupt capitalism, a heartless health care system and a community seriously lacking in a love thy neighbour policy. An amalgamation of Martin Scorsese’s, The King of Comedy, Taxi Driver and others, director Phillips reimagines the iconic archnemesis to Batman in a world where Bruce is still a child and the Joker is still referred to by his government name, Arthur Fleck. Suffering with mental illness and a laughing disorder, unsettled by alienation and raised in a Gotham that is overrun by super rats, Arthur is shaped into a naïve man caught up in a corrupt and unforgiving system. The result is a thought proving project that threads honest issues surrounding the isolated and the disenfranchised whilst highlighting the lines crossed when the entitled and ambitious seek vigilante justice.
The Senbla production is a detailed celebration of filmmaking, with its live Novello orchestration offering a passionate backing to the film and a perfect reason to revisit this modern classic.