Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Film Review: Alejandro G. Inarritu's Birdman

To say that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman, the Mexican auteur's fifth feature film, is a surreal, visually batshitcrazy, tragi-comic near-masterpiece, and self-parodying industry satire, full of sound and fury, signifying the hidden depths of Michael Keaton's bravura comeback performance, is not just some hyperbolic overselling of the product. It is, in all reality, the heartfeltiest of statements from a critic who has become overly jaded lo these many years of film watching in these deteriorating days of cinema. This film is a vibrant slice of proverbial fresh air, in the otherwise rank stench of the modern moviemaking slaughterhouse. I told you I was jaded, but when one experiences a film such as this, with its Wellesian outlook and Kubrickian mannerisms (both cinematic attributes that are not new to Inarritu's oeuvre), even the most jaded of critics has to stand up and say huzzah.

As far as the story goes, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), as the full title reads, is about Riggan Thomson, a has-been actor, once famous for playing a movie superhero, attempting a comeback, not in his native Hollywood, but trodding the boards of Broadway. Michael Keaton's performance of Riggan, a performance that is not only a comeback, but a comeback that could win the actor his first ever Oscar, is dead shot brilliant. Playing basically a version of himself (Riggan mentions his last time playing Birdman was 1992, the very same year Keaton last played Batman) Keaton has never been better. Combining his skills as a dramatic actor with his absurdest ability at black comedy, Keaton is what one would call remarkable in the role of faded star. Add to the mix, an arrogantly charming Edward Norton, in one of his finest performances, and a surprisingly visceral Emma Stone, not to leave out Andrea Riseborough and Naomi Watts (both great as well), and you have one hell of series of movie performances. but even with this trio of performances, Birdman may actually be all about the look and feel of what is going on. A look and feel made all that more powerful by the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki, last year's Oscar winner for Gravity.

Lubezki, who has worked regularly with Inarritu's fellow Mexican New Wave compatriot, Alfonso Cuaron, gives the film a feel of neverending twisting and turning, as his camera weaves through the convoluted back hallways of the film's main setting of a Broadway theatre, and every once and a while spilling out into the streets of the theatre district. Admittedly manipulated to seem like long unbroken shots, the visuals of the film still rock and reel us into an edge of our seats position throughout the film's two hour or so running time. Add to this bravura camera work, some intriguing fish-eye views and ultra close-ups, and the film has the feel of both claustrophobia and wide-eyed wonder. Inarritu also infuses his film with a magical realism as well, that aforementioned wide-eyed wonder, as Riggan may or may not have the power of telekinesis, the director, who also co-wrote the script, giving us contradictory viewpoints throughout. To say that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman is a surreal, visually batshitcrazy, tragi-comic near-masterpiece is certainly not mere hyperbole, but a welcome rave-worthy critique spewing forth from a jaded critic looking down upon a mostly tired industry. Inarritu takes multiple stabs at critics in his film (Keaton even quotes Flaubert in his anti-critic diatribe) but that doesn't stop this one from going on and on. Dare I even say, the best film of far. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


  1. Looks really good! Hoping to see it before it disappears from the theaters.

  2. This film looks so original that I am surprised given the lack of originality of "hollywoodland". I want to see it too before it "flies" away (hahaha). I am betting that he will actually win the Oscar

  3. Since this film is currently the frontrunner for the Best Actor Oscar, plus also with good shots at nominations for Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound, Screenplay, and maybe even Supporting Actor and/or Actress, Director, and most likely a Best Picture nod as well, I think it should be around for a while.