‘Birdman’ Movie Reviews from Venice are Glowing

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Birdman Venice movie reviews
Michael Keaton and Edward Norton in Birdman
Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman premiered at the Venice Film Festival only a short time ago and the first reviews are finally hitting the web and they are glowing as well as informative. Alonso Duralde’s review at The Wrap the film tells us Iñárritu and cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki (Gravity) “have used camera and editing tricks to make the film look like one continuous take, and while it sounds gimmicky, the constantly moving camera and seeming lack of edits underscore the jitteriness of the proceedings”.

Peter Debruge at Variety is ecstatic in his review opening with a paragraph that should get you primed to see the pic once it hits theaters on October 17:

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, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), 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. In a year overloaded with self-aware showbiz satires, Alejandro G. Inarritu’s fifth and best feature provides the delirious coup de grace — 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.

For those that don’t know, the film is a black comedy telling the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) – famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself. Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough and Amy Ryan all co-star.

The comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock‘s Rope are obvious and will likely find their way into most reviews as Debruge, Duralde and Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter all reference the “edited to look like one take” classic. Debruge is complimentary of Lubezki’s work writing, “Lubezki’s camera is alert and engaged at all times, an active participant in the nervous backstage drama” while McCarthy adds, “[A]s lucid and controlled as the camerawork may be, it’s also bold, propulsive, even raw at times and invariably in the right place at the right time to catch the actors as they dart in and out, get in each others’ faces or ponder the effect of what they’ve just said or done to someone else.”

birdman-poster-smallAll are complimentary of Keaton, which was expected, but Edward Norton seems to be getting a lot of love as well with Debruge writing:

Norton very nearly steals the show from Keaton at one point. Revealing body and soul alike, both stars are inviting us to laugh at aspects of their real selves, though Norton initially seems the more impressive actor, amplifying his own intense commitment to realism to absurd extremes — with the hilarious result that finding himself in the moment during an early performance proves a rather dramatic cure for his character’s offstage impotence. At first, Keaton doesn’t seem capable of reaching as deep, either in reality or as Riggan, though that’s before the humiliation of wandering through Times Square crowds nearly naked.

Over at The Playlist, Jessica Kiang is complimentary of Emma Stone‘s work, playing daughter to Keaton’s Riggan Thomas writing, “Stone is maybe the best she’s ever been, which is saying something, delivering a snarling monologue at one point that is basically a manifesto for the modern millennial, and then tempering it with a tiny beat at the end that kind of deserves an Oscar by itself. Riseborough and Watts have smaller roles, but a brilliant scene together that gives them depth and life and color outside their screen time, and if Ryan gives the film a lot of its heart as Riggan’s loving ex-wife (the platonic opposite of the shrewish ex) then Lindsay Duncan doles out a fair share of its bite in a couple of brilliantly venomous exchanges (critics, and the nature of criticism also come in for some extremely, uncomfortably pointed, hilarious jibes).”

Finally, over at Empire, Damon Wise writes:

What the film ultimately talks about, however, is more rich and profound that Iñárritu’s earlier works, dealing with issues of art, artistry and why we create. That Iñárritu has done so with a multi-layered script is a thing of wonder in itself, but the perfect physical precision with which he has done so – his restless camera takes us into every peeling nook and cranny of the theatre, until its dank corridors become as familiar as home – is a miracle. The ending will baffle or delight, but like the rest of the film it is uncompromising, a true throwback to the ’70s – Alan Arkin’s Little Murders springs to mind – a time when surrealism and abstraction weren’t alien terms and people watched Batman for laughs.

Additional Reviews

So, Oscar-wise, it sounds like a Best Cinematography nomination is damn near a lock if not the current favorite while Best Director (Inarritu), Actor (Keaton), Supporting Actor (Norton), Supporting Actress (Stone), Screenplay and most likely Best Picture are all strong possibilities with any number of craft nominations in the cards. I’ll have to wait to see it for myself before I get too deep into those however.

Birdman will next be closing the New York Film Festival and I’d be surprised if it didn’t show up at Telluride as it is skipping Toronto before its October release. Once again here’s the trailer, let me know… you excited?