miércoles, febrero 04, 2015

About Birdman | A Review

Popularity -as- the slutty little cousin of prestige.




In his acceptance speech at the golden globes, Michael Keaton thanked Alejandro González Iñárritu for having the opportunity to be a part of a film the former describes as an unbelievably gutsy and unapologetic look at human nature. 

While that is a rather good and concise description of Birdman, the fact is that Iñárritu's film is much more than that. There is at least one -exploration- (let's call it that) proposed in the film that does not pertain exclusively to "human nature" but constitutes a silent cinematographic essay about the intricate relation between theater and cinema.

It starts with what seems to be an examination of the quintessential platitude about cinema: The idea that it is subordinate to theater, which is supposed to be a more elevated art form in some certain obvious, yet unelaborated manner. In Birdman, Iñárritu seems to challenge this idea without using many words, without making the mistake of suffusing the movie with interminable dialogues full of lines about how dignified theater is as opposed to Cinema (or vice-versa). A lesser film-maker would have bored the crap out of us by making this movie a never-ending come-and-go of spoken commonplaces, but Iñárritu´s exploration is more interesting because it is a more silent and subtle one.   He uses camera travelings that take us, in a matter of seconds, from a theater set to the cinematic reality portrayed in the movie in what seems to be an effort to convey, without many words, that one of the advantages of cinema is precisely that it is capable of leaving the boards and taking us more closely anywhere.  To the illuminated noise of Timesquare, very deeply in its chaos, for example.

But Iñárritu's movie doesn't seem to impose any conclusions. Like the best of cinema, it doesn't really explain itself too much but instead invites a lot of thinking. While making a fierce criticism of Hollywood's obsession with -entertainment-, it appears to propose that cinema (good cinema) is not just the slutty little sister of theater but perhaps a pupil, a great apprentice that, at its best, can overcome its master.

Last but not least, much in the spirit of Keaton's remarks, Birdman is also a very gutsy look at the relation between prestige and fame. More precisely, it is almost a denounce of all the mischief that fame is capable of once it takes hold of the minds of men.  One could almost say that Birdman, at its very core, is the story of a man gone mad, made immortal by theatre, killed and resurrected by the grace of cinema. This film, flawlessly delivered and adorned with solid performances by Keaton, Emma Stone and Edward Norton is not just Iñárritu's return to glory ever since Amores Perros, but also one of the most memorable cinematic experiences of the last few years.






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