Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2014)

Despite the cascading mishmash of positive sentiments ruffling my subconscious, I’ve daringly decided to compile my thoughts on Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ambitious and arresting Birdman. An undeniable crowning achievement, the film’s title refers to fast-fading A-Lister Riggan Thomson’s (Michael Keaton) superpowered alter ego, pre-present day superhero boom. Knowingly unable to relive his glory days, Riggan’s self-started career revival takes the form of a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story. As stress mounts during the events leading up to opening night, the former icon inches nearer to a precipice overlooking certain failure. Will Riggan overcome adversity via burgeoning identity crisis and past mistakes? Such is the mystery of Birdman‘s darkly comedic ruminations.

It shouldn’t take long for any viewer to swoon over Birdman‘s purposeful kinetic gusto. Like a fly buzzing about the heads of key players, the restless camera’s focus compliments a thematically rote but subjectively unique narrative with aplomb. In addressing the farthest-reaching aspects of Riggan’s dwindling mental state and self-esteem, the script does more within a city block than most films can across continents thanks to flawless execution. Almost oppressively reminiscent of the overarching stage production at its core, this all-encompassing creative sensibility laced with bombastic humanism does wonders in transcending cinematic normality.

In drawing a vague yet relevant comparison to Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria, sure, inter-generational disparity is omnipresent throughout Birdman as well given its commentary on the lines between artist and celebrity, the long-gestating toll of fading fame and so forth. Whereas Juliette Binoche’s Maria Enders banks on self-defensive cynicism and feigned complacency, Riggan’s intermittent mental breaks – ignited by the titular winged crusader – help urgently illustrate his present perception of himself compared to what his admirers built him up as. In transitioning from everything to nothing in the eyes of both the public, his ex-wife and estranged daughter, the film’s perceptive deconstruction of this agreeably afflicted character rarely fails to captivate, plain and simple.

For those who haven’t caught on, I hold Birdman in the highest regard as I reflect on how little I’ve truly loved throughout 2014. It’s blissful presentation is only overthrown by ceaselessly excellent performances, not to mention the multifaceted narrative that adds the proverbial fuel to these individuals’ respective fires. Iñárritu has truly put forth one of the most daring films in recent memory, and not only because of its ability to deftly ping pong between unavoidable tonal shifts. Barring overtly superior cinematography and many a notable exchange, Riggan Thomson and company also serve as rare examples of compelling characters worth investing in regardless of personas and perceptions.

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