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Friday, January 23, 2015

BIRDMAN (2014)

As a charter-member of the Give Michael Keaton A Tom Hanks Role Now And Then Club, it was a kick to hear all the buzz coming off this high-visibility project. But as particulars leaked out from over-hyped Film Fest showings, it seemed clear that the usual pretentious befuddlements of writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s would dampen any anticipation. (Subtitled OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE in case you harbored any hope.) The film’s a meta-physical whimsy with Keaton rejiggering his faded career as a flying SuperHero by going on-stage in his own Raymond Carver adaptation. Really, that’s the plot. There’s a load and a half of technical obfuscation, largely superfluous to the theme or action, using a much commented upon appearance of one unedited take.* Too clever by half, the technique has the tail wagging the dog as we chase characters from behind for too many interconnected scenes and then find we have to play them out with compromised lens choices (often fish-eye) that add unwanted psychological distortion to a story that needs to be seen plain if its going to add up to anything other than a freak show. Oh well. Many seem to get off on the excess and the actors all seem to be having a whale of a time. (Make that a ‘wail’ of a time.) Though the women are hard to keep track of. And why all the gaffes about B’way? Half-price previews? A NYTimes writer rooting against the success of an original drama on B’way? Critics sitting on-the-aisle at Opening Night? When did these people last go to the theater? 1962?

DOUBLE-BILL: Time has been unusually kind to George Cukor’s A DOUBLE LIFE/’47, with Ronald Colman going all Method-Actory on Othello in Ruth Gordon/Garson Kanin’s theatrically knowing script under Milton Krasner’s brooding lens.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Hitchcock attempted the one-shot look on ROPE/’48, hoping to build real-time suspense as the clock ticked. So did Aleksandr Sokurov in his fantasy documentary RUSSIAN ARK/’02. But with events playing out over a week or so, it’s a show-offy obstacle/distraction here. No doubt, Iñárritu’s idea of an artistic challenge.

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