Weaving a classic Raymond Carver story, Hollywood blockbuster action films, Broadway business, media politics, ever-evolving social marketing platforms, and an array of character psychoses from schizophrenic paranoia to delusional narcissism into a compelling tale is a tall order; Alejandro González Iñárritu delivers, and he delivers a beautifully and meticulously wrought tapestry. Birdman was much anticipated and upon release, was an immediate success among the masses and much lauded by film and cultural critics. The humming buzz is much deserved: well acted, well directed, well written. For me, much of the praise and the intrigue of the film is owed to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and his extended frenetic sweeping takes and camera movements, which lend the film its pulsing, sweating energy, its hallucinogenic effect, its pervasive improvisational sway. The choreography of the camera coalesces with the rapid, scat-style drumming score that hums, rapping and beating in a fever.
With moments of whim and fantasy, coupled with the visual and aural kinetics of the camera and drum, the film at first seems incongruous to the minimal style and subtle tone of the central piece of fiction, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," which washed-up and possibly deranged protagonist Riggan Thomson adapts for his precarious Broadway theater debut. After seeing the film a few weeks back, it took some marination time for the realization that the circuitous roving of the camera in Birdman, circling and bobbing through the long corridors and winding staircases of the back of the Broadway theater, mirrors the passing of the gin bottles between the two couples in "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," around and around the table. The selection of story was precise and purposeful, from a character and symbolism perspective: both address the complexities of inadequacy, expectation combating with reality, the throes of addiction. While the thematic tie was immediately satisfying and realized, for me, the complementing geometry of each work, sweeping circles, from one character to the next, seems more than merely fortuitous.
As a vehement lover of books and the written word, I generally approach film adaptations of favorite novels and stories with ambivalence. The power, the beauty, the truth of language is not always possible to capture, and while a different medium can provoke other thoughts or emotions, I am more apt to disappointment if the effect is lackluster compared to the original. Here, I greatly admire the construct, the assimilation of such a powerful literary work, reappropriated and working within the confines of a separate but equally compelling narrative. Again, well tied into the film's commentary on the marketing power of viral social media content and our self-reappropriation in digital realms. A delightfully intricate film experience and certainly money well spent to view in the theaters.
(image taken from Business Insider)