Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

(Video on Demand, March 2015)  Once in a while, it’s good to sip a pure dose of concentrated moviemaking skill.  Something like Birdman, expertly directed, featuring top-ranked actors at their best, delving into weighty themes and doing it with a strong sense of style.  A comic drama about a washed-up actor in the moments leading up to his Broadway debut as a writer/producer/performer, Birdman gets inspiration from the world of theater to deliver a film presented as one uninterrupted sequence, the camera gliding from one character to another, skipping forward in time and even presenting fantastical visions alongside its realism.  It’s a giddiness-inducing piece of cinema, from the perfectly-cast Michael Keaton (playing a former superhero actor) to an equally-capable foil played by Edward Norton (making the most of a reputation as an abrasive method actor), with an unsettling drum-based score, carefully staged performances, a bit of magical realism, barbed pokes at Hollywood trends and enough laughs to make us forget that this may be a very sad story.  It’s invigorating, hilarious, poignant, impressive and accessible at once.  The inconclusiveness of the conclusion isn’t as annoying as it could have been, largely because the film delivers so many pleasures along the way.  Easily one of the most striking films of 2014, Birdman earned its various Oscar accolades: writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu certainly knows what he’s doing, and can do it in ample style.

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