“Birdman” is a musical tone poem of a film, with multiple levels of emotion and human interaction swirling, surging, and weaving like ocean currents — as is characteristic of much of director Alejandro Inarritu’s work.

Inarritu is a razor-sharp thinker and exceptionally creative. His ability to work with actors comes from inside. It’s not every director who can see scenes from the point of view of an actor. Having myself watched a live panel with Inarritu and Keaton after a screening of the film, it became clear that this is one of Inarritu’s strengths.

The very beginning of the film takes an expected turn. Keaton, playing, ironically, washed-up ex action hero “Riggan Thompson”, is frustrated while trying to coax performances from his actors in a Broadway play he is directing. The play is based on a short story by Raymond Carver, whose characters find frustration, beauty and surprise in the mundane. Quite suddenly, literally with a bang, the whole direction of the scene changes, and Keaton’s character starts a journey into the madness that each of us harbors deep inside (yes, I should speak for myself here).

Two performances are especially of note: Michael Keaton’s and Emma Stone’s. Keaton seems to effortlessly carry us deep inside “Riggan’s” psyche. Emma Stone, as “Riggan’s” recently-rehabbed-druggie daughter, seems to actually take on the role of the parent in the relationship. She’s tough, she approaches life with common sense, yet underneath you can sense the pain, vulnerability and intelligence she’s covered up with her strong, irreverent and independent persona.

Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has noted how the cast and crew became immersed in the experience of making the film — an experience that was not unlike the story their characters were moving through. Very few filmmakers can pull this off. One who comes to mind is John Boorman (who will, incidentally, be speaking at the Aero Theatre on Feb. 24 during a retrospective of his work).

The musical score by Antonio Sanchez is mostly a series of carefully shaded and choreographed drum rolls — perfect for moving us through the different states of emotion of the characters.

Inarritu was not afraid to shoot extended sequences without cutting and editing them together. Lubezki, who worked with him on last year’s Oscar winner, Gravity, possesses the attention to detail and preparation to carry this off beautifully. At the same time, Inarritu is able to push his actors to the limit yet convince them he’s got their back. The result is a juxtaposition of reality and dream states that seem to melt together in the end, so that the audience becomes part of the dream/reality. Alejandro Inarritu has the courage to reach for his intuition as his main tool in crafting a film. The result — a work that seems like a simple though unorthodox tale, that rings true for humanity on many levels.

Rated R. 119 minutes.

Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Email her at kwboole@gmail.com.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *