Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I adored this movie. Its indie style put me right in my comfort zone and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing some big name stars appear in such a quirky piece of cinema. Michael Keaton is Riggan, a self-pitying superstar actor who has rejected blockbuster roles in an attempt to take his acting career seriously, and as always was a joy to watch. The subtle way we slip in and out of his traumatised psyche is as impressively subtle as the editing in this film; sometimes terrifying, sometimes hilarious but always right on point and never too absurd to not feel right. It is also deliciously ironic to see a character played by Michael Keaton so hatefully disregarding a superhero character when the man himself became a household name because of Batman.

When I saw Zach Galifianakis credited I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the thought of yet another comedian-turned-professional actor trying to get themselves taken seriously in the attempt to be nominated, however his performance maintains the subtle camp yet droll style we associate him with as Riggan’s friend/producer who seems to serve as some sort of indicator for whether we are in reality or one of Riggan’s anxiety-produced hallucinations. 

Emma Stone definitely looks the part of  the recovering drug-addicted daughter with her huge bulging eyes (seriously how does she DO that thing with her eyes?!) whose presence here seems to represent one of the many darker themes of stardom.

And finally Edward Norton, who stole the scene every time he was on camera whether he was meant to or not (or indeed, if he were to be brandishing a huge prosthetic(?) erection at the time). Norton is Mike Shiner, an arrogant-because-he-can-be actor who in a cruel twist of irony has become so far removed from real life that the only time he can be real is when performing. He is an arsehole of the highest caliber and I would love to think that Alejandro G. Iñárritu took great joy in casting an actor who is notorious for being a cunt to work with in a role that requires him to be exactly that.

Birdman is interesting for a Hollywood movie as it so clearly takes inspiration from many of cinema’s great auteurs. The lack of any ‘obvious’ editing and frantic camera movements (which lead to a fairly nauseating initial viewing) is clearly inspired by controversial French director Gaspar Noé, of Irreversible fame. The film also has hints of Gilliam inspiration in its unnerving close-ups and claustrophobic surroundings, mock-time travel references (an inadvertent side-effect of watching our characters practice the same scenes in a play over and over) and of course what was clearly an ode to Brazil in climactic dream flight sequence. It took some adapting to seeing these A-List actors in not only an alternative style of filmmaking but also in roles that represent the very worst of the acting profession. Birdman has all the makings of excellent cult cinema, and yet here we are awaiting the film’s fate on Oscar night and it feels truly weird.