By Emmanuel Gutierrez |Features Editor|
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” is a viciously cynical, beauteously shot film, teaming with colorful and arresting characters—masterfully directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu.
“How did we end up here? This place is horrible,” said Birdman. “Smells like balls,” begins the film, in all its existential insight and blunt, snarky satire.
Riggins, played by Michael Keaton, pursues his ambition to write, direct, and star in his initial foray in Broadway, seeking respect and validation from the artistic community, making him a modern day Icarus, whom everyone wishes to crash in a blaze of burning, black feathers—for simply trying.
“Riggins was a great character. You love him, you hate him, and when you laugh at him, sometimes you feel a little bad,” said student Jessica Garcez.
He wishes to prove he isn’t a brainless, one-note, comic strip attraction dating back to his Birdman flicks, but a relevant artist, whom may or may not be expressing his creative works for all the reasons he claims.
Keaton—the original big-screen Batman—is cleverly cast, potent, yet pitiable, and fantastically eerie in his sometimes egotistical plight for relevancy.
To overshadow the ghostly stain of the Birdman persona haunting him, Riggins’ ego unleashes.
The film, constructed as if taken in a single shot, was a risky, successful twist, where the medium thematically reflects the material.
After all, there are no breaks in theater, so the actors’ performances, all single-shot, are derived from the same scene.
Combine that with the entrancing, almost otherworldly mise-en-scene, and you have technical genius enhancing the already gorgeous, dark, and gritty world behind the scenes of Broadway.
“Half the time I was like, ‘Damn, how did they do that?’” said student Amilene Valencia, regarding the transitions.
Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, perhaps best known for his work on “Gravity,” meticulously blends a single-shot-scene with another, hiding transitions as if they do not exist; they do, but no one in the universe could point out with absolute certainty where the cuts are made.
“The main cast were all in super hero movies and were excellent. It gave ‘Birdman’ a unique dimension of self-awareness. It was so meta,” said Stephanie Rodriguez.
Riggin’s witty but gloomy daughter, played by Emma Stone, is a recovering drug addict, looming behind stage, jaded and short-tempered.
She becomes a constant reminder of his negligence and inadequacies as a father during his prime, and now must live with the consequences.
The other thorn at Riggins’ side, Mike, played by Edward Norton, is another starkly broken human being, becoming the wild card in the worst way possible, as the theater production’s dependence on him grows.
He is an excellent actor, but a serious stickler for realism in his scenes, tossing back shots of gin and attempting coitus with an unwilling partner in front of an audience of hundreds.
Nominated for nine Academy Awards—including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Michael Keaton—”Birdman” is a refreshingly daring piece of cinema, brimming with technical and creative genius, masterful direction and cinematography, all while remaining darkly comedic, intelligent, and heartfelt.
Birdman soars. 5/5 Paws.