Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) .

It may be stagey and wordy but don’t let that deter you from seeing this outstanding American satirical black comedy. Alejandro González Iñárritu is a Mexican director that was responsible for helming some of the best films I have seen in the last 15 years, Amores perros (2000), 21 Grams (2003) Babel (2006) and Biutiful (2010) and he has now co-written, produced, and directed one of the most intriguing films I have seen in 2015. Birdman (2014) is the story of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) who is trying to revive his career by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway adaptation of a story by the American short story writer Raymond Carver What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Thomson had originally been a famous Hollywood star playing a superhero known as Birdman but is know virtually forgotten by most people other than his most devoted fans. Also involved in this make or break production are the producer Jake (Zach Galifianakis) Riggan’s best friend and lawyer, Riggans Girlfriend Laura (British actress Andrea Riseborough) his daughter and assistant Sam (Emma Stone) who is a recovering drug addict and first time Broadway hopeful Lesley (Naomi Watts).
Riggan and his alto ego.

McDonalds turn up everywhere. 

The rehearsals are not going well and one of the other actors doesn’t seem to be able to hack it. Fortunately for Riggan, but unfortunately for the actor, a rather large light fitting falls on his head therefore bringing any further involvement in the play to an abrupt end. A replacement is required post-haste and thanks to Lesley the replacement turns out to be none other than the brilliant but at times volatile, actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton). By the way I have neglected to tell you that Riggan Thomson is tormented by strange occurrences where his alto ego Birdman speaks to him encouraging him to re-engage with his previous character which involves flying and making things levitate around his changing room! The involvement of Shiner in the production does nothing for Riggans metal state and as opening night approaches things are not looking good. 
Daughter Sam....

....girlfriend Laura....

....and hopeful actress Lesley.

This is a somewhat different movie from your standard cinematic release. The cinematographer Emmanual Lubezki, who has worked with Terrence Malick, The Coen Brothers and Alfonso Cuaron amongst many others, was tasked with making the movie seem like one long shot and his use of the camera is exceptional.  Antonio Sanchez composed the majority of soundtrack. The reason for using a Mexican Jazz drummer was explained by Iñárritu as enabling him to ‘structure scenes’ he went on to say in an interview “The drums, for me, was a great way to find the rhythm of the film... In comedy, rhythm is king, and not having the tools of editing to determine time and space, I knew I needed something to help me find the internal rhythm of the film." We get to see the drumming in various scenes sometimes in the corridor of the theatre and sometimes in the street; the great thing is that they are not part of the narrative! The score earned a nomination at both the Golden Globes and the BAFTA’s.
Discussions with Shiner are not going well....

....and the producer looks worried!

The best thing about this movie, other than its wonderful screenplay, is the acting, with Michael Keaton the stand out turn, but in reality all the other members of the cast are not to far behind Keaton’s high standards: this is supported by the fact that it has been nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Actor for Keaton, Best Supporting Actor for both Emma Stone and Edward Norton and Best Director for Iñárritu.  It’s a film I would certainly recommend you go to see, and as I have said about this director’s previous work all his films are on a different level from your normal boring mainstream multiplex offerings and Birdman is no different.

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