I’m presuming, of course, that the first Telluride screening of Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) will be a levitational knockout, but I feel badly that I wasn’t able to attend this morning’s press screening in Venice, which by several accounts was a fucking corker. Variety‘s Peter Debruge is calling Birdman “a triumph on every creative level, from casting to execution, that will electrify the industry, captivate arthouse and megaplex crowds alike, send awards pundits into orbit and give fresh wings to Keaton’s career.”
To hear it from Deadline‘s Nancy Tartagione, Birdman “bowed to one of the best receptions I have ever experienced on the Lido” this morning. “Applause, laughter and strong emotion emanated from attendees in the refurbed Sala Darsena this morning during the first press screening. Making my way out afterwards, I heard ‘bellissimo’ uttered at least a dozen times.”
“Birdman flies very, very high.” writes Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy. “Intense emotional currents and the jagged feelings of volatile actors are turned loose to raucous dramatic and darkly comedic effect in one of the most sustained examples of visually fluid tour de force cinema anyone’s ever seen, all in the service of a story that examines the changing nature of celebrity and the popular regard for fame over creative achievement. The film’s exhilarating originality, black comedy and tone that is at once empathetic and acidic will surely strike a strong chord with audiences looking for something fresh that will take them somewhere they haven’t been before.”
In other words, a fair percentage of the megaplex idiots are going to go “meh…we want our usual crap!”
The Sala Darsena was apparently “it” this morning, the hottest place to be, the one spot on the globe where even Winged Gods (including HE’s own Movie Godz) were looking for a seat. “Is this taken? Sorry, man, but you can’t just point and say ‘it’s taken’…you have to mark it with a jacket or urine or a folded program or something….you have mark your territory like an animal.”
I’ll be sifting through various reviews this morning for the coolest phrasings but let’s stick with Debruge for now:
Variety‘s Debruge again: “A quarter-century after Batman ushered in the era of Hollywood mega-tentpoles — hollow comicbook pictures manufactured to enthrall teens and hustle merch — a penitent Michael Keaton returns with the comeback of the century.
“In a year overloaded with self-aware showbiz satires, Inarritu’s fifth and best feature” is “a blisteringly hot-blooded, defiantly anti-formulaic look at a has-been movie star’s attempts to resuscitate his career by mounting a vanity project on Broadway.”
“Yes, the film is preoccupied with an aging actor’s psyche, but it also addresses fatherhood, marriage, personal integrity and the enduring question of the legacy we leave behind.
“Judged by Howard Hawks’ quality standard — ‘three great scenes, no bad ones’ — Birdman features at least a dozen of the year’s most electrifying onscreen moments (scrambled, so as to avoid spoilers): the levitation, the hallucination, the accident, the fitting, the daughter, the critic, the ex-wife, the erection, the kiss, the shot, the end and Times Square. Most films would be lucky to have one scene as indelible as any of these.
“As Riggan Thomson, Keaton isn’t playing himself so much as an archetype that few other actors could have fit: an insecure celebrity whose Faustian decision to embody a superhero called Birdman subsequently made it impossible for critics or audiences to take him seriously in anything else. Riggan is one of those roles, like Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd., that relies heavily on the actor’s offscreen persona, and it works because audiences know so little about Keaton’s private life, though they find him endearing even when he’s playing narcissistic characters.
“Inarritu’s approach is mind-boggling in its complexity, nearly as demanding on Lubezki as Gravity must have been, such that even seemingly minor jokes, as when the camera spies the drummer responsible for the pic’s restless jazz score (by Antonio Sanchez) lurking on the edge of the frame, had to be perfectly timed. It’s all one big magic trick, one designed to remind how much actors give to their art even as it disguises the layers of work that go into it.
“Circling shark-like around Keaton, then darting off to stalk other actors, Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera is alert and engaged at all times, an active participant in the nervous backstage drama.
“Taking a cue from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, the meticulously blocked shoot cleverly finds ways to mask cuts, using invisible visual effects to stitch together various scenes so it appears that the entire film is one continuous take, even though the events take place over several weeks and in various uptown Gotham locations — primarily Broadway’s St. James Theater, but venturing out anywhere that Riggan can walk or Birdman can fly.”