Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

A film by Alejandro González Iñárritu

Written by Francesco Alò – Badtaste.it
Translation: Bianca Baroni

It’s the overman era. Indeed, we’re constantly surrounded by superheroes.The Hollywood star Riggan Thomson, now struggling for a theatre adaptation of Raymond Carver in the ruthless New York, has one of them in his mind. A superheroe. It’s Birdman.
This character talks to him with that Micheal Keaton’s sexy voice that Seth Rogen, like us, prefers to the robust and less elegant one of Christian Bale. Well, Birdman is twice as musch ridiculous than that Batman of Tim Burton and Micheal Keaton, who plays also the role of his double-metropolitan-bird-superheroe (very funny, the costume). Birdman clearly makes fun of that great period in which he played the role of Batman in those gothic kolossals by Burton in 1990 and 1992. Now Micheal does less prestigious stuff such as the excited newscaster for Need for Speed.Not only the old and wasted Riggan has a birdman in his mind, but he also has to present a hard stage show, directed and played by himself, in Broadway. Basically, everything goes wrong just like in Peter Bogdanovich’s Noises Off. First of all: the new substitute for an injured actor is the unmanageable, plotter and fiendishly magnetic Mike Shiner. He’s so crazy and unpredictable that he alternates very sincere moments with solipsistic bursts of wickedness. In addition, he has an ex drug-addicted daughter that works as scenery assistant, queen of sarcasm (a great Emma Stone, more hateful than usual), a partner who is sick of his absence (a soft Andrea Riseborough), a highly strung primadonna (a still great Naomi Watts), a terrified producer (a more self-controlled Zach Galifianikis), a severe ex-wife (a gladly strict Amy Ryan) and a drama critic, ready to magle him a priori (a functional Lindsay Duncan). Will Riggan be able to solve his messy life, full of disappointed women, rancorous people and with a show that is always more out of control? And why does it seem that he can move objects? Is he really becoming a superhero?

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We’ll never stop saying it: commedy is harder than drama. “When I want to work hard, I write a comedy; when I want save energy,
I write a drama”. Who says that? Woody Allen. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo wrote a fine comedy but the virtuosity of the second mexican director that opens the Festival (last year, it occurred to Cuarón and his Gravity), who realizes long takes (the first one lasts more than 10 minutes), makes it all contorted, fascinating but also extremely hard to enjoy in full. The great comedy director, from Mario Monicelli to Blake Edwards and the already mentioned Woody Allen, have always looked for stylistic simplicity. Iñárritu takes it in a whole other way, while you’re still laughing he already performs a couple of acrobatic jumps in front of you. Exhausting. Is this a satire against the excessive power of Hollywood’s cinecomics? It looks like this in the begninnig, but then the director takes it far too seriously focusing on the inner problems of a self-describing childish egoist, who we have seen a thousand times at the cinema (satire needs a more detached approach for what concerns the hero and a stronger one for the environment, which is just faded here). It looks like a Feydeauish comedy with misunderstandings and cheatings, but then again: Iñárrit gives Riggman the same dramatic importance of Bardem in his last Biutiful (2010). And actually they’re not the same thing.

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Is this a familiar drama that ends like the mystic meeting between Bardem and his father as a kid in the brilliant beginning and end of Biutiful? Maybe? Then why is does comedy last for three quarters of the whole movie? Well, the film is a fascinating mess.
You can enjoy it, it has some magical moments (all the seductive blattering between Stone and Norton are interactive acting pearls), some non-mainstream nice jokes (“the slutty little cousin of prestige” says the jealous Norton-Shiner to Keaton-Riggan) but in the end, it is too serious to be a catchy comedy and too frivolous to be a great drama in the mexican style, leader in “gravitas”, with pain milestones of 24 frames per second, such as Amores Perros (2000), 21 grams (2003), Babel (2006) and Biutiful.
The finale then… is confusing. The whole movie, starting from its interesting soundtrack made of angry percussions and mellow symphonies in old Hollywood style, is seen from Riggan’s point of view.At the end, here it comes, arrogantly, the point of view of another main character. And this ruins a supernatural ending that clashes for an extremely indulgent look but it gives huge problems in the coherence of the drama. Micheal Keaton sets the rhythm like an aggressive but never surprising drum.Edward Norton is a trumpet always ready to change rhythm and intentions. The best one. Once again he has been able to remind us why we hate the fact
that he doesn’t work that much. All the ladies: excellent. The movie will last as a curious oddity that kindly makes fun of actors and
superheroes’ world, that sometimes they’re close to coincide into actors’ and public’s sick mind. Riggan knows it perfectly.

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