Festival buzz for Michael Keaton‘s latest washed across the web last year and whetted the appetite of many a film-goer – myself included. From Leeds to Bath, Venice to Stockholm via New York, it winged its merry way across the globe garnering – on the whole – positive reactions from those cineastes lucky enough to see it. Alejandro González Iñárritu is not a name that trips off the tongue and I must confess this is the first of his films I’ve seen all the way through. I can’t remember why I didn’t watch the whole of 21 Grams and I never got round to watching Babel. I am obviously aware of him as a filmmaker but I’m not drawn to his work. Birdman clearly transcends this; you are aware of it as “that Michael Keaton film” as opposed to “the latest film from Iñárritu“. But that is to take nothing away from the director of this wonderful piece of cinema.
Birdman is not one of those films that stands alone, elevated through a particular performance. It clearly draws those film-goers of an inquisitive nature towards it due to the contribution of a particular individual, but hangs onto them through the process. Its self-referential tone, knowing nods and “industry comments” draw me to comparisons with Robert Altman‘s The Player – but while Mr. Altman’s piece hangs it all out there, Birdman‘s introspection delves deeper. Its (mainly) labyrinthine setting – a Broadway theatre – is demanding Mr. Keaton’s character to hold onto some semblance of awareness; forcing this mechanism upon him to “keep it together” as he attempts his own form of career salvation. How much of this parallels Mr. Keaton’s own career span, post 1989 and 1992’s Batman and Batman Returns would be pure speculation on my part; I have no interest in reading tabloid gossip about an actor’s personal life and/ or trials and tribulations therein. Suffice-to-say, the mere fact that Mr. Keaton the actor and his character in Birdman have this career point in common is enough to add an additional layer of interest upon an already extraordinary film.
As I’ve already said, this is by no means a one-man-show. All the supporting cast knock it out of the park but particular mention must go to Emma Stone (playing Mr. Keaton’s daughter), Zach Galifianakis (his friend/ lawyer) and Edward Norton. Mr. Iñárritu‘s direction is a wonder to behold, making skilful use of the New York setting. He is clearly invested in the piece and has made me want to revisit/ become acquainted with his previous work. I cannot speak of Birdman highly enough. At times art house darling, at times cutting satire, I’m delighted my enthusiasm for this film was not dulled by its viewing. January is a great time for film-goers. We in the UK behold a cornucopia of cinematic fare as the awards season approaches. Birdman is one such offering and hopefully one or two well-deserved honours will come its way.
Thank you for reading 🙂