I have finally had the chance to see Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) and it will probably remain my choice as best film of last year. A delirious showbiz comedy, certainly one of the best movies about theater or film ever made. Michael Keaton, incredible in his role, is the declining movie star Riggan Thomson, who has abandoned the superhero role of Birdman that made him rich and famous and is now trying for validity as stage actor and director by starring in his own self-financed Broadway play adapted after a Raymond Carver story.
The film is so intelligently constructed (the on- and off-stage are so interlinked that you often get the feeling you can’t tell fiction from reality, if the characters talk as themselves or playing the Carver dialogue) and filmed, by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who won the Oscar last year for Gravity (giving you the impression that it is a one-take film), that it makes me want to say that it has its own stand-alone place in cinema. Birdman is placed in the theater world, but it cleverly alludes to the vanity of blockbuster Hollywood, to superheroes and remakes and cinema interested solely in box office rankings, to actors addicted to celebrity, trying to adapt themselves in a new world dictated by social media. But it takes a visionary non-American director to render an American subject in such an incisive, original, vibrant, satirical yet emotional way.
And it’s wonderful to realise director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s talent for comedy (I still can’t shake off the heavy impact that the tormenting story in 21 grams had on me). The entire supporting cast is amazing, from Edward Norton (hylariously narcissistic) and Emma Stone (I don’t think there is any other actress more entitled to the Oscar nomination – for what these nominations are worth – in supporting role), to Naomi Watts (she continues to prove herself better), Amy Ryan and Zach Galifianakis. The score from Antonio Sanchez adds to the originality of Birdman, maintaining an edgy, jazzy vibe throughout, transmitted to the viewer. Everyone seems to have done their piece flawlessly and it shows.
photo: movie poster | production credits