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Friday, 30 January 2015

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

When you have Alejandro González Iñárritu directing a movie you can be rest assured that it has to be at least a little bit “hatke” (off the beaten path).  With movies like Amores Peres, 21 Grams, Babel and Biutiful under his belt Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) could not have been straightforward.  It would not have been Iñárritu.

And that is what makes Birdman special.  That’s what gives you the polarized reviews all over the internet where a certain segment of the audience (and I do not blame them at all) have given Birdman ratings between 0 and 2.  The others (and I don’t blame them either) have gone ahead with over the top ratings of 8+.

Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) is a washed up yesteryears’ superstar who is known most for playing a superhero called Birdman.  He has always lived under the shadow of his own character so much that most critics openly state that he is a celebrity and not an actor.  He has had at least one failed marriage and several failed relationships.  He has a daughter Sam (Emma Stone) who is currently his assistant on Broadway.

Why Broadway all of a sudden? Well, Riggan believes strongly that for him to earn respect and leave a legacy of acting, he has to prove a point to the rest of the world.  And the world views Broadway as a platform where true actors are tested.  In the bargain, he puts in everything he has made on the line to make his first venture (he is also directing the play) a grand success.

His crew include a Jake (Zack Galifianakis) who is his manager, Lesley (Naomi Watts) who is the lead actress), Laura (Andrea Riseborough) and the latest addition to the cast i.e. Mike (Edward Norton).  Birdman centres itself around these principal characters, at least one of whom, are followed by the camera during the narration – a slightly giddy experience.

Iñárritu slowly but surely unravels Riggan’s mind and his relationships with almost everyone in the plot.  In addition he also establishes the relationship between each of the key characters.  The dialogue and the narrative are both “in your face” and 100% naturally delivered.  The background music of Jazz drums is representative of Broadway and mixed brilliantly with the narrative.

Clearly, Birdman will be understood and appreciated by people who are firstly willing to keep an exceptionally open mind about how a certain topic must be treated in the world of cinema.  There are no fixed rules that “need” to be followed so long as the communication is effective.

For my money’s worth, Iñárritu has taken his style of writing (along with Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. & Armando Bo) and used his trademark approach to direction (read – has to be slightly different everytime) and created yet another piece of work that he would be proud of. 8 on 10 and as I said – watch with an open mind.

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