Birdman: One of the Most Unique Oscar-Winning Films in Recent Times
Amy RyanAndrea Riseborough...
Alejandro González Iñárritu
In 1 Cinema
Capturing an artist’s messy internal battle, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a strange, innovative and deliciously imaginative comedy-melodrama that dares to be different.
The story is centred on Riggan Thomson (Keaton); a washed-up Hollywood actor who’s best remembered for portraying comic-book superhero, Birdman, in a series of three successful Hollywood blockbusters over two decades ago. Desperate to recapture his former glory and step into the limelight once more, Riggan decides to write, star in and direct an ambitious Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk about When We Talk about Love.
A day before the play’s first preview, however, one of the lead actors is injured. Enter brilliant but unstable actor, Mike Shiner (Norton). Riggan goes to great lengths to recruit him, though fragile egos, addictions and pride soon send the production spiralling out of control.
Written and directed by the acclaimed Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman is by far one of the director’s best works to date. Innovative, dark, funny and woefully tragic, the film is set almost entirely in-and-around Broadway’s St. James Theatre. It was shot – a task masterfully handled by the award-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki – to look like one sweeping continuous take. The dialogue is rich and Iñárritu’s deep-felt exploration of a declining actor, whose frantic attempt of validating his own existence sends him to the edge, is told against a backdrop of a trippy jazz-drumming score; a touch which adds yet another layer to the inner-workings of an artiste’s fragile mind.
As someone who knows a thing or two about being a former – and perhaps forgotten – superhero, Keaton is the perfect choice for Birdman and the talented actor – who spends much of his time keeping the voices of his mocking Birdman alter-ego at bay – leads the way with one of the most sincere and engaging performances of his inconsistent career.
In fact, the entire ensemble – Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis to name but a few – all play integral, and thoroughly enjoyable, parts in the puzzle. Under the detailed eye of Iñárritu, the cast play their roles with a naturalism rarely seen in modern mainstream film; they’re expressions, gestures, movements and reactions aren’t hinged on creating drama – Iñárritu lets his actors just be.
What is even more remarkable about the film is how it has been received; awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography at this year’s Oscars is a phenomenal achievement for a film that, on paper, is very un-Hollywood.