Posted on January 31st, 2015
That’s the best word to describe Birdman, a film that leads the way in the Oscar discussion with nine nominations. It’s a rather idiosyncratic film, quite unlike anything else. A film that manages to be earnestly serious about trivialities, and that makes mundane egos bickering completely compelling.
This is a film about the nature art and commerce, and the uneasy schism between the two. Michael Keaton stars as a washed-up former action star trying to establish a degree of credibility with a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story. As the opening night approaches, he’s having problems with his cast, with his PA (and daughter), his producers, and most of all with himself.
Birdman‘s gimmick, for want of a better word. is that it is all one continuous shot (not really, but it’s edited as such). It’s a fascinating choice to use this in a film about the theatre, because in some respects it makes the film far more theatrical (intercutting being a difficult technique to pull off on stage), with plenty of scenes of talking heads going at it. Yet it also compounds the cinematic nature of the film too, because the camera is constantly moving, constantly taking the close-up forcing us into an intimate relationship with the characters. The drum score is a marvellous thing to behold as well. It provides a heartbeat to it all, . It’s like a metronome, The fact that it can’t be nominated for Best Score at the Oscars is fucking ridiculous, but hey ho.
And talking of Oscars, the acting in this film is through the roof. There’s not s single dud performance. Michael Keaton hold the whole thing together as the focus of the film, managing to allow a pent-up rage to burst through the blissful denial of his situation.. But he’s ably supported by everyone else. Edward Norton is unlucky in that Best Supporting Actor is the most loaded category at the Oscars this year. Lindsay Duncan nearly steals the show as a bitter critic – her scene with Keaton borders on screaming “THIS IS THE MESSAGE OF THE FILM” but is saved from that by the quiet, steely, lethal gravity she provides in the face of Keaton’s menace.
This weightiness is offset by the dreamlike, seamless quality to the whole affair, which combined with the ambiguous portrayal of Riggin’s ego manifesting as a superpower, layers on a veneer of surrealism. It draws you in, it keeps your attention held in a vice-like grip. By the time it reaches its conclusion it’s like waking up from a trance. Its intensity won’t let you go, even when it’s finished.
Hypnotic. That’s the word.
(Also, how fucking good is that poster?)