Birdman: Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance (15)

Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Picturehouse, Liverpool
From 2nd January 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Apparently the career of Michael Keaton nosedived after Batman Returns in 1992 - I was unaware of this because i don't follow that type of news in the movie world - but he produces a stunning performance in this remarkable film.

It is set and largely filmed inside and in the surrounding vicinity of St James Theatre, part of what is described as Broadway in New York. Keaton, in the role of Riggan Thomson, is attempting to resurrect his downward slide as an actor, or as a 'celebrity', as the icy cold theatre critic Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay |Duncan) describes him, by staging an adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

But he is beset by intense doubts as to whether he is taking the right steps to arrest his decline. You sometimes hear his inner demons talking to him or arguing with him when he is prone to self doubt or stress.

But always lurking in the background, as if on a branch of a tree, is his former persona, in the shape of the super hero Birdman, he portrayed years ago in a franchise blockbuster. In Keaton's case Batman.

The most appealing aspect of the film, masterminded by director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ('Babel' and '21 Grams'), is the extraordinary cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki ('Gravity'). The camera sweeps relentlessly through the theatre, along corridors and into dressing rooms, up and down stairwells, roaming above the heads of the audience and actors, and from backstage onto the stage itself.

There is a very strong supporting cast, most notably Emma Stone, playing Thomson's daughter Sam. You watch her every movement and listen to her searing dialogue, especially when lambasting her dad for believing the Hollywood hype about himself.

Another star turn is Edward Norton ('Moonrise Kingdom'), playing an accomplished stage method actor but also a slimeball in the extreme.

Released on 2 January in the UK, Birdman - it seems very premature to say this - looks set to be one of the most memorable movies of 2015.

You could almost say that Birdman swoops to conquer!

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