BIRDMAN or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) - famous for portraying an iconic superhero - as he struggles to mount a Broadway play.from£2.88 | RRP:
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Please note this is a region 2 DVD and will require a region 2 or region free DVD player in order to play BIRDMAN or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) - famous for portraying an iconic superhero - as he struggles to mount a Broadway play In the days leading up to opening night he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family his career and himself
Michael Keaton stars in this award-winning black comedy written, directed and produced by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Struggling actor Riggan Thomson (Keaton) is still remembered today for his portrayal of superhero Birdman from his early career. Fed up with only being recognised for one thing, Riggan stages a comeback with a difference. He aims to broaden his fanbase and win back some of his credibility through a performance on Broadway, but his biggest problem has always been his ego and taking orders from people is not on his to-do list. Can Riggan put aside his feelings of self-importance in order to rekindle his career? The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won four including Best Director and Best Picture and also picked up Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical Or Comedy (Keaton) and Best Screenplay - Motion Picture.
Average Rating for Birdman - 5 out of 5
(based on 1 user reviews)
Birdman is like nothing else you've ever seen.
It begins with a man in his underwear levitating. It ends with a moment of beautiful ambiguity involving a window and a young girl's face. And in-between, it takes in subject-matter that encompasses pretty much everything you can think of - from grand ideas about the meaning of life and the value of art, to smaller notions such as the fickle nature of celebrity stardom and the consuming prevalence of Facebook and Twitter.
But while Birdman is full of interesting content, it's noteworthy as much for its filmmaking style as for the nuts and bolts of its story. Most notably, director Alejandro González Iñárritu constructs the bulk of his movie - which tells the tale of washed-up film star Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton) and his attempts to rejuvenate both his career and his personal life - so as to appear to be one continuous, unbroken take.
What initially appears to be a mere stylistic flourish quickly reveals itself to be much more than that: by constructing the story as a single shot - and keeping the action largely confined to a theatre in which Thomson is attempting to stage a worthy play that will give him the artistic credibility he seeks - Iñárritu draws us into the world of the film and never lets us go, setting the action to a compelling continuous jazz-drumming soundtrack that keeps things interesting and exciting even when they could otherwise threaten to lag.
The director encourages us to follow characters as they move from room to room in real-time, when other films might simply cut from one scene to the next; he hovers expectantly with a (daringly) empty frame for seconds at a time when characters leave a scene, building tension for the next development; he unsettles us by jumping forwards through time from one scene to the next, even though the moments appear to the viewer to be continuous; and he creates a sense of a tangible reality that helps to ground the film in its early stages, even at the same time as he shows us things that we know simply could not be happening if this film was as straightforward a drama as it initially seems.
That's because Birdman isn't a straight drama at all; or at least, it isn't *just* that. Interspersed with the more realistic elements of the story - which see Thomson attempt to juggle his relationships with his daughter (Emma Stone), his co-star (Ed Norton), his ex (Naomi Watts), his lawyer (Zach Galifianakis) and his fiercest critic (Lindsay Duncan) - are scenes in which Thomson exhibits apparently supernatural powers, converses with a manifestation of the superhero Birdman (that he used to play in a series of hit movies), and even witnesses larger-than-life action-movie style scenes that somehow seem to go unnoticed by the rest of the film's cast.
By playing with these fantastical elements, Iñárritu - who also wrote the screenplay - encourages us to question the heightened reality that's presented to us: to interpret each moment through the lens of a potentially unreliable narrator, or at least see some sections of the film as being symbolic more than literal. By blurring the line between what's real and what isn't, the director opens up his story to a satisfying level of ambiguity, allowing for a variety of interpretations that make this movie a lot more interesting to chew on than it would have been as a more conventional drama.
As the central player in a film that never takes its eyes off its lead for too long, Keaton is called on to carry much of the movie - and it's a challenge that he meets tremendously well. Of course, it helps that he's parodying his own real-life persona and playing on his real-life career trajectory to an extent: after all, Riggan Thomson being a slightly faded movie star who made his name in the "Birdman" series is not that far away from Keaton's currently relatively-low profile after his famous stint as Batman. But Keaton goes beyond simply 'playing himself' to give Thomson a sincere yearning for greater meaning, and a sense of existential anguish that really helps to round him out as more than just a two-dimensional has-been movie star.
Ed Norton, too, plays on his real-life reputation of being a little bit 'difficult' and controlling, sending himself up beautifully. And Emma Stone is utterly beguiling as Riggan's daughter, with a youthful naivety that belies the fact that she's actually one of the most insightful and mature characters in the story.
It's telling that every person that I know who has watched Birdman has taken something different away from the film. My younger, more technologically switched-on brother enjoyed the exploration of social media as being just as much of an arena of performance as the theatre within which Riggan performs; my sister saw it as a funny celebrity satire; my parents viewed it as more of a story about the relationship between the older and younger generation, and about the trials of getting older; and I saw it as more of a representation of a mid-life crisis over what defines you, how you measure your own sense of self worth, and whether it really matters what others think of you.
For me, it's those introspective elements of Birdman that really stand out, and that help to make the movie far more universally-relevant than a simple synopsis might suggest. From the regularly-glimpsed notice in Riggan's dressing-room - stating that "a thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing" - to the frequent use of reflections as a visual motif, there's a subtle recurring theme of whether you can ever see yourself as others see you, and whether you can truly reconcile your inner identity with the person that you project to the world.
Birdman's alternative title - as shown at the very start of the film - is "The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance". Like much of the movie, it's something that's immediately amusing and thought-provoking, but also ambiguous enough to be open to more than one interpretation. And that's the film in a nutshell: a likeable comedy that also carries a fair amount of dramatic weight, and gradually reveals itself to contain some fairly deep and challenging ideas that you might find yourself pondering long after you've switched off your TV.
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