Birdman (2014) - review

Door Janreviews gepubliceerd op Sunday 03 April 22:05

"Birdman" tells us the story of an actor who played a superhero in a couple of films, Riggan Thomson, who is writing, directing and acting in a new Broadway play in an attempt to revive his career. When one of his actors cannot perform anymore for medical reasons, he has to hire an infamously demanding actor.

I am very happy that I have finally seen this film, because I'd heard a lot about it since it won four Academy Awards. I'd picked up here and there that the film used very long takes and I was looking forward to seeing how that would look.

This film suffers from a serious case of "form before content"."Birdman" is shot in a way that it looks as if it could be one single shot, but it is quite clear where the cuts between the takes are; I remember that there was a shot of an empty hallway that lasted ten seconds. Alejandro Iñárritu directed this film and I recognised a tactic that he also used in "The Revenant": panning up toward the sky. In "Birdman" he pans toward the skyscrapers, in "The Revenant" he pans toward the treetops. I really don't see why he didn't just cut the take there; everybody knows that a new take starts when the camera pans back down! I think this film would've benefitted from some cuts. For example, it is impossible to show what is happening on stage unless the character the camera's been following who's been walking through their dressing room decides to go toward the stage. It was interesting to go through the labyrinth of the theatre building, but the form became a little tiring after a while. Also, this film doesn't exploit the power of a sudden cut! Sidenote: I've just realised that the opposite of this film is "Requiem for a Dream". 

I don't think Michael Keaton's performance was that great. His daughter, played by Emma Stone, had some great lines and they were delivered perfectly. She checks him back to reality in one particular scene which Stone really shines in. Zach Galifianakis proves that he can combine his comedic timing and his dramatic ability perfectly. He had some great quips and he was was able to not show a trace of humour in the scenes where he's upset with Riggan. I didn't even know Naomi Watts was in this film before she appeared on screen and I also liked her performance. She was really fantastic in the scene when her partner does something unexpected on stage and they have to bow to the audience together afterwards and we see her distraught in her dressing room. That part could've easily been over-acted, but Watts did a great job at making it look realistic. Finally, the reviewer Riggan confronts in a nearby bar was played in a very subdued way and I really liked that. 

A couple of minutes before the end of "Birdman", we get to see a sequence of different shots that have something to do with the story and then we return to the story. That whole thirty seconds could've easily been scrapped. They didn't add anything to the story. It could have easily ended with Riggan looking at the sky. That would've got the message across and I wouldn't have had to watch that really awkward ending. 

This film suffered from its forced form. Iñárritu's direction of "The Revenant" would've been more appropriate for this film: still using long takes, but cutting between locations every once in a while.   

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