Donnerstag, 28. August 2014

Venice Film Festival: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Even when it boasts top-notch technical credits, including some surprisingly lavish effects shots, and a star ensemble of big-name Hollywood actors, "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" remains resolutely indie-spirited, both in its daring approach and its metaphysical, zen-y concerns.

Composed of long tracking shots so edited together as to give the impression of one (almost) unbroken shot, there's already a hardcore experimental nature to the picture. While the inevitable transitions do feel forced sometimes under this illusion it tries so elaborately to hold up, at its best this decision for drawn-out takes and extended scenes that branch out and keep racing forward allows for an aliveness that's incredibly invigorating. Surrounding a washed-up ex-superhero actor bent on resuscitating his career by a Broadway comeback, the script is expertly structured, leisurely but precisely ping-ponging the narrative between life on and off stage. Although there are dialogues here and there that may be a little too caught up in their own existential profundity and don't fully ring true, in constantly snaking in and out of the realms of reality, playacting, fantasy and those heightened moments of awareness like wild fame lost or found, this is a dazzling piece of writing that calls into question the very essence of performance, of being.

The cast is individually brilliant but even more electrifying as a colorful bunch. Former Batman Michael Keaton is, if not entirely flawless in his many monologue deliveries, absolutely compelling as former Birdman, registering the weariness, rage, hunger of someone no longer loved by many and bringing with him of course a further layer of truth meets fiction that fuels the trippiness of the film. Edward Norton is fantastic as the slightly crazed actor hired to save the play. Loose, jacked, wonderfully unself-conscious, you can tell he gets this dynamite of a character completely, brains, fears, neediness and all. In limited roles, both Andrea Riseborough and Amy Ryan add glorious sparks to the eclectic happenings. And so fresh is Zach Galifianakis' performance in this movie that, even when looking exactly the same, he's almost unrecognizable.

Ultimately the movie belongs to two men: Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu is on fire here, playing with both storytelling and visual styles so freely the gleeful showmanship threatens to implode on screen. It's a testament to the maturity of his hand that throughout all the craziness, as an audience member you always feel safe and ready to be astonished by what comes next. His fellow countryman Emmanuel Lubezki proves yet again he's one of the very best cinematographers we have. Such evocative lighting and lensing, supernatural in its beauty but also truthful in its attentiveness, such flow and assurance of camera operation even within confined spaces. Aided sonically by a sexy, kinetic, if at times a bit domineering drum score provided by Antonio Sanchez, this camera is so magnetic and forceful it has chi to spare.

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