Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Done In 60 Seconds Competition 2015
Guide To Marvel's Infinity War
The Making Of The West Wing
Get 12 Issues For Only £25 Today
The perfect gift this Christmas
Farewell To Middle-earth
Full details of our Peter Jackson-edited issue
Movie News

LATEST HEADLINES
TODAY
Exclusive: Hollywood Stars Put Their Questions To Peter Jackson
Kit Harington quizzes him on Game Of Thrones
New Kingsman: The Secret Service UK Trailer And Poster Land
Wham, bam, thank-you Sam
James Cameron Talks Avatar Sequels
‘They’re gonna to be bitchin’’
Mel Brooks Joins Hotel Transylvania 2
As Vlad, Dracula's dad
New Poster For Peanuts
Dream big
Andy Serkis Talks The Avengers: Age Of Ultron
As Empire heads into The Imaginarium...
More Movie News

RELATED NEWS
YESTERDAY
Birdman and Boyhood Lead Indie Spirit Nominations
Nightcrawler and more also score nods
More Movie News

RELATED FUTURE FILMS
Birdman
02 January 2015
More Future Films

RELATED REVIEWS
Need For Speed (2014)
Empire Star Rating
Robocop (2014)
Empire Star Rating
Biutiful (2011)
Empire Star Rating
The Other Guys (2010)
Empire Star Rating
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Empire Star Rating
More new cinemas releases
DVD & Blu-ray releases

Venice 2014: First Look At Birdman
Michael Keaton's not-so-superhero

27 August 2014  |  Written by Damon Wise  |  Source: Exclusive

submit to reddit



Awards season officially begins today with the opening of the 71st Venice Film Festival, which in recent years has put the likes of Black Swan and Gravity on the launching pad with its prestigious first-night slot. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest, Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) perches beautifully in that company, being an experimental yet fully grounded work by a supreme visual stylist.

Like those two films, it also puts its faith in a bravura performance, this one from Michael Keaton, who literally strips himself to the essentials in a role that stamps this as the first must-see of the autumn.

The trailer suggests a very different film from the one Iñárritu actually made, highlighting a magic realism and sense of mental turmoil that does feature in the film, but which doesn’t dominate it. Instead of being a wacky, effects-led satire about a star in freefall, Birdman is really a thoughtful – but also technically impressive – meditation on self-esteem and true human value in the Facebook era. Nodding to stage classics such as Death Of A Salesman and lesser-spotted movie equivalents such as Synecdoche, New York, Birdman mostly rests on the writings of Raymond Carver, whose 1981 collection of short stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, is the foundation of the film.

The setting is Broadway, where former superhero star Riggan Thomson is staging his own take on Carver’s work, funding it from his own pocket. As the curtain is about to rise, a hammy co-star is injured in a freak accident, but the day is saved when a hotshot stage star (Edward Norton) agrees to step in. This really is the bulk of the story, since Thomson then finds himself at the centre of a maelstrom of his own making: neurotic co-stars, a fussing manager, a needy daughter, a stifling mistress, a theatre critic sharpening her claws, a public that seems to have forgotten him and an ex-wife he’s still really rather fond of. But watching him through all this is the figure of Birdman, the hit superhero character he played for three movies and who won’t let him go.

There are some wonderful in-jokes and a nicely judged selection of namechecks for the likes of George Clooney and Justin Bieber, but Birdman isn’t just an arthouse What Just Happened. If anything, it is surprisingly emotional; as we’ve come to expect from an Iñárritu film, Birdman is a man’s movie in a very delicate sense, dealing with relationship and family issues from a place of vulnerability.

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.

Birdman opens in UK cinemas on January 2, and an official Empire review will follow in due course. There's more from Iñárritu in the new issue of Empire, which hits shelves tomorrow.


Have Your Say
To comment on this, and all articles, register for free or login now.

See Benedict Cumberbatch In A New Image From The Imitation Game
His Alan Turing has the key to winning World War II
Exclusive New Pictures From Gone Girl
See David Fincher at work adapting the bestseller

SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS

SAVE UP TO 48% GET 12 ISSUES FOR ONLY £25
Get the best seat in the house by subscribing to the world's biggest movie magazine today. Save up to 69% and every month you'll get exclusive subscriber-only covers, access to the biggest stars and the best news, reviews and behind-the-scenes reports straight from the set. Click here to find the perfect offer for you


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Empire's Jurassic World Trailer Tour
We guide you, Richard Kiley-style, through the secrets of the new park

Empire's Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies Covers
Five armies. Five covers. The eagles, dwarves, elves, men and orcs prepare for battle in our Peter Jackon guest-edited issue

Empire’s Peter Jackson Issue Subscribers' Cover Arrives
Five Armies, three elves, two heavenly creatures and one giant ape

Empire's Farewell To Middle-Earth Issue:
Guest -Edited By Peter Jackson

The countdown to Empire's stunning new issue begins here...

Josh Hutcherson On The Hunger Games Phenomenon
'I've done my fair share of young adult material now'

What Is A Squidward? A Beginner's Guide To SpongeBob SquarePants
If you aren’t already a massive fan, prepare to become one

Classic Feature: Gods Among Us - Robert De Niro
The heavyweight champion of character immersion, explosive rage and jawdropping subtleties

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)