8 feb. 2015

Birdman (9/10): The technical ambition pays off for Iñarritu and Lubezki.

“You're doing this because you're scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don't matter. And you know what? You're right. You don't. It's not important. You're not important. Get used to it.”

No matter how people feel about this film, there is no denying that Birdman is a technical marvel. Emmanuel Lubezki is one of the best cinematographers in Hollywood and he should continue working and experimenting with his fellow Mexican directors. Birdman is visually astonishing and one of the most unforgettable moviegoing experiences of the year. He blew us away last year when he took us to space in Gravity, and now he astonishes audiences once again by giving us the illusion that the film is taking place entirely in one single shot. From the opening shot, Lubezki is letting us know that we are going to get our heads spun and so he circles around a table with four actors discussing their roles in the play they are about to act in. Birdman is unlike any other film I’ve seen in that sense, where you feel like you are watching actors in a live theater. The audience becomes the camera which follows around these egocentric and troubled actors as they interact with one another. The film has stuck with me and it is one of those rare movies I’d like to experience once again in the theaters. I can’t think of another film that manages to portray the passage of time so well without having to cut from one scene to the next the way Birdman does. 

Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu is better known for his realistic and depressive films focusing on separate characters whose lives intertwine someway or another (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel). This was quite a fantastic change of tone from his previous and more depressing films. He has crafted one of the best films of the year with groundbreaking editing effects that magically make us believe the film is all a continuous shot. He also uses dark and satirical humor to critique egocentric Hollywood actors, critics, artists, and even audiences who eat up anything they are served as long as there are loud explosions and non-stop action scenes. Iñarritu takes a shot at just about everyone.
Alexander Dinelaris's script was wickedly smart and satirical with some great and memorable dialogues that complement the technical achievements of the film very well. Birdman has a lot to say about our human nature and our desperation to become relevant and important. It is a complete film that deserves all the recognition and awards it has been receiving.

The performances in Birdman also stand out above most films released this year. Michael Keaton is fantastic as Riggan Thomson, a once popular actor who starred in a superhero franchise but hasn’t been able to do anything relevant since. He is known for the character of Birdman, but he wants to prove he is a real artist and not just a washed up celebrity. That is why he is risking everything in a play he is directing, writing, producing, and starring in. His good friend, Jake (Zach Galifianakis) is co-producing the play with him. Lesley (Naomi Watts), Laura (Andrea Riseborough), and Mike (Edward Norton) are the actors he hires for the play, while his daughter Sam (Emma Stone) is working for him as his personal assistant as she tries to recover from her former drug addictions. The supporting cast is excellent in this film, especially Edward Norton and Emma Stone who share several great scenes together along with Michael Keaton. Galifianakis also impresses in a much more serious role than what we are used to seeing him in, but this is still Keaton’s film who displays a wide range of emotions. Birdman has become such an important part of his life that he actually interacts with him in a surreal way. The film balances this magical realism very well and Keaton pulls off the feat of having these inner conversations with himself. The intimate camerawork only enhances these performances even more. 

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