Theses are waiting to be written on DP Emmanuel Lubezki’s editorial skills as a series of long-take tracking shots re-creates the seamless pursuit of elusive fame in every nook and cranny of the real and imagined world. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s Birdman follows Riggan (Keaton), an ageing actor of comic-book franchise fame, as he rehearses a play that he both stages and stars in. Straddling the real and unreal, Riggan’s Birdman is grounded by the confines of backstage corridors and dressing rooms, by an accidentally acquired co-star (Norton), fellow cast members and lovers (Watts/Riseborough) and a post-rehab daughter (Stone). Yet he’s also heaven-bound, elegantly transported by his Birdman nemesis into the heart of illusion. Iñárritu opts for an extravagant pursuit of thespian lunacies. Recapturing the rawness of Amores Perros and lacing it with more complex plotlines (Babel), his study of dream-world obsessions negotiates reality via stream-of-consciousness, sobriety via hilarity, personal foible via professional acuity. If that sounds like a tightrope act, it is. Congenial narrative omniscience in time and space leaves the occasional stretch mark. But there’s grandness in the madness.
Birdman | Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (USA 2014) with Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone. Starts January 29
Originally published in issue #135, February 2015.