Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Birdman is a modern surrealist, experimental, and deeply psychological exploration into the mind of a washed up actor in New York City. The film is edited to appear as if shot in a single shot, to give it a blurred, dream-like quality. It stars Michael Keaton (perhaps as a nod to his role in Batman), Zach Galifinakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan (Holly from The Office) and others. Riggan Thomson (Keaton) is a washed up actor, haunted by his most famous performance as “Birdman” -as Birdman becomes his alter ego throughout the film. He is cast in a Broadway performance of a Raymond Carver story. Reality is regularly turned on its head throughout the film as he has surreal capacities to fly and commune with the manifestation of Birdman. He encounters rude reviewers, his abrasive daughter, fellow actors, and he gets locked out of the theatre on accident and is forced to run through Times Square in his underwear before he comes on stage and delivers a dramatic performance and at the conclusion, he shoots himself in the head. He wakes up in a hospital, having only shot off his nose. He reunites with his daughter and when she leaves the room he climbs out the window and jumps. His daughter returns and she smiles as she sees a bird flying in the sky. Thus the film concludes, as his mental stability steadily declines, and we are not given a conclusion as to whether or not he has killed himself. The theme of Icarus runs throughout the film.
The film won an avalanche of awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and others.
I didn’t care for this film, not being a fan of the surrealist style. Birdman is certainly a unique picture, heavily self-reflective, and even sarcastic. Is it a comedy? Is it a suicidal tragedy? Is it a dark philosophical film? The audience is left feeling a certain sympathy for actors and creators at the end, having a better understanding of the struggles of actors (playing to the Academy’s ears), however the cinematography in the film is extraordinary.