Film Review: Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance)

The Superhero becomes a Man.
There’s been a number of great movies both in 2014 and due to be released UK side in the wild fresh smelling 2015, that had a swirling almost chaotic, seemingly erratic jazz soundtrack, bombastic, hip swinging, finger tapping and slow glide sweeping shuffling throughout the movie. On first listen/watch the beats felt potentially disjointed, unrelated like crashing objects falling from shelves. It’s only when you stop concentrating on the individual elements/moments allowing yourself to relax and letting it all sweep over you that it starts to make sense, rely on your instinct and the apparent disorder becomes the beat of life, in all it’s beautiful cacophonous mess.

The latest of this troupe is the appropriately and delightfully bizarre titled ‘Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance)’ (2014) by Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 grams, Biutiful) and starring Michael Keaton (in an outstanding performance) as an actor who once flew to the dizzy wing melting heights of Icarus as a movie superhero character ‘Birdman’ in a series of movies, then only to fall into obscurity and fame death. Trying to resurrect himself (his fame?), credibility, integrity and humanity, Riggan (Keaton) is directing a retelling of a Broadway play, which most see as a foolhardy, if not arrogant attempt of redemption to say the least.

Aware of his human failings and the disparity of how the world sees him, and he himself throughout his entire career/life, almost like a Flight to Damascus, he wants his life to be more than entertainment folly, the ‘Hero’ must step up and become the ‘Man’. But will the world/daughter/friends allow Icarus to fly again?

Birdman Film Review

It’s a wonderfully shrewd/perfect choice as lead in Keaton, who of course played ‘Batman’ all those cinema years ago. But that is the tip of the parallel iceberg as the in many movie real life references quickly blur reality with fiction into such a soup of elements, that you’re not sure what you’re digesting, but is tastes amazing, looks beautiful and is wonderfully filling/satisfying.

Imbued with a strong but playful critique of contemporary life (& critics) it moves along like one continuous take (twitter stream) for the entire movie, tagging from one character to the next, with a fantastic supporting cast in Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts to name but a few. The media world has done it’s job of portraying Riggan in a particular way, that even he himself isn’t sure who he is any more, and as such has to take on his greatest ever foe/enemy (as with us all) himself.

That may sound a tad heavy going, but it deftly deals with a great many real issues and the hopeful glow of redemption with an enveloping comedy touch/timing/surrealness, sugaring the reality pill, a necessary device in an era where everything is focused grouped to the blandest common denominator. On a slight note of presentation, all the advertisements/trailers that you see for the movie don’t show it in it’s true light, and to an extent it can’t. That’s not a criticism of the campaign, as it’s safe to say, you’ve not seen anything like it, and there would be not appropriate way of ‘selling’ it, once again that’s to it’s absolute credit.

Seeped in life, jazz, theatre and dreams/aspirations of what it is to be human, some may initially find the movie alienating at first, but relax into the work and it’s a truly unique/wonderful piece of cinema/storytelling/humanity.


Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) is out now.

Steve Clarke

Born in Celtic lands, nurtured in art college, trained by the BBC, inspired by Hunter S. Thompson and released onto the battlefront of all things interesting/inspiring/good vibes... people, movies, music, clubbing, revolution, gigs, festivals, books, art, theatre, painting and trying to find letters on keyboards in the name of flushthefashion. Making sure it's not quite on the western front... and beyond.