I’m posting a pair of trailers for the upcoming Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu film Birdman. The first one is a teaser, and it’s brilliant and arty, but it leaves the viewer wondering what the hell is going on beyond the central conceit. The international trailer reveals more of the plot and supporting performances, and while it might not be as succinct a nugget of brilliance, it demonstrates more of the film’s reach while continuing to promise an awful lot.
At surface level, Birdman is about a washed-up Hollywood comic book movie franchise star (not unlike Keaton post-Batman) trying to prove something to himself with a self-produced vanity Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story. The film has been killing at festivals, partly because of the meta aspect, but also based on the strength of the performances. It’s also uncertain from the trailers how surreal the plot is– i.e. how much of this is in Riggan Thomson’s (Keaton’s) mind and how much may not be. Keaton’s role is said to require several different sides of the actor, and that on all levels he’s pulled it off to an incredible degree. The film is already being touted for Oscar nominations, particularly for Keaton, and it may put him back on the A-list in a big way. It’s not so much a discovery, but a re-discovery– reminding us of the many things he can do, and do exceedingly well, and putting them all in one package at a time when we may be wondering why Keaton’s profile has receded in the last 10-20 years as much as it has. Beyond that, the supporting performances are being talked about across the board as very strong to career bests; it’s also the first comedy director Inarritu has worked on, and the first shoot he’s described as enjoyable. He previously directed Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful. The first three are all brilliant films with strong ensembles, but also dark and bleak and often unrelentingly hard to watch.
After Babel, Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga parted ways, and as a result both of their careers stumbled. Biutiful had a lot of potential behind its story concept and boasted a stellar central performance from Javier Bardem, but the film had a tighter, more personal focus with only one storyline that was a departure for Inarritu. And as if it were possible, Biutiful was perhaps Inarritu’s darkest, bleakest film, while also not really delivering. It felt as though Inarritu were using it to ask some questions as an artist, questions that he didn’t yet have an answer to, and as a result the film felt meandering and a bit lost. It appears that with Birdman, Inarritu has answered those questions and found a confident direction forward. To add to the immersion, Birdman is comprised of very long takes that required the actors to approach it more as a stage play, with most of the cuts hidden so that the film generally feels seamless. It’s one of my most anticipated films of the year, and I’m equally excited to see where Inarritu goes next.