Sunday, November 23, 2014

Birdman (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


The eccentric and semi-reclusive actor Michael Keaton gives a breakthrough performance as the one-time action star Riggan Thomson in Alajandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Birdman". Riggan is a mainstream actor, attempting a Broadway run, with his adaptation of Raymond Carver's fiction. Thomson  is driven dyspeptic and ulcerated by low self esteem. Perhaps as a joking commentary of Keaton's own role as The Batman, Riggan attempts to dismiss his Pop history while at the same time wanting to protect his legacy. The actor is surrounded by mediocrity, from the egocentric method actor (Edward Norton) to his slacker daughter (Emma Stone) and his hen-pecking ex girl (Andrea Riseborough) and feels stifled. Enclosed within the corridors of the shabby but time honored theater, Riggan is a Minotaur lost in a maze. While the dialogue feels intentionally long winded and circular, Keaton is transformative as an acidic and fuming big bad wolf trapped in the exhausting fairy tale that is his life.

The acting is stellar, but where the film really succeeds is in its magical realism as menacing buildings threaten to overtake him, echoing the fantasies of Terry Gilliam. Riddled with self doubt, Riggan nonetheless has the aggressive yet fanciful ability of telekinesis, hurling objects against the wall in menace.

It is possible in watching the film to dispense with the plot, and just let the kaleidoscopic verve of the Hitchcockian cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki absorb your eye. Shot in one continuous take throughout the two hours, Lubezki shows us an inferno of Broadway, peopled with pale and eerie creatures reminiscent of Hieronomous Bosch.

The final piece d'resistance of "Birdman" is in giving Riggan something of the great Antonin Artaud in making the theater a violent and propulsive act.

Like a cartoony and surreal shaman, Riggan executes a Taoist pantomime, highlighting a double world that exists within our routine shadow play.

Write Ian at

No comments: