This week Will Leschber gets meta.
Winter is upon us and the end of the year almost proves a curious time. Dense with transition, this final month of the year somehow seamlessly fuses welcomed endings, the promise of new beginnings, outward reflection, routine introspection, feelings of seasonal loneliness, the joy of drawing close to one’s family, cold winter winds, warm gifts of friendship, thoughts of all that has come and gone, and all that lies ahead. The past and the future seem alight with the kinetic energy of being so close to one another. Everyone individually knows the contrasting tones and their own personal ingredients that fall into and color the holidays. It runs the spectrum. Depending on who you ask holiday feelings can run from celebratory to brooding. While a simple, straightforward, feel-good Christmas film or seasonal play can be satisfying for this time of year (Love, Actually always hits the spot for me around Christmas), I also appreciate something a bit more varied with complexity and frayed edges. Maybe some seasonal Birdman is on the menu.
“And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?”
“And what did you want?”
“To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloverd on the earth”
(This opens the film, misspellings and all)
If you are looking for a sweet-spot of entertainment that melds the space between film and theatre, Birdman is it. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film Birdman: Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance wistfully unfolds a tale of a washed up former blockbuster star, played by Michael Keaton, and the days leading up to his Broadway debut. Keaton’s character, who blazed across the marquee two decades ago in three mega-hit Birdman films, now find his star faded and wants to do some creative work of significance. Sounds familiar… Batman 1989, anyone? Yeah, it’s meta. The films throws around ideas inherent to creative professions: permanence vs transitory, popularity vs prestige, creativity vs madness, family vs individual, Broadway vs Hollywood, film vs theatre, success vs validation, true art vs zeitgeist, old vs new, importance vs the creative human condition. Everything is at odds, bumping up against one another, pushing for priority. The filmmakers sprinkle on magical realism blurring the lines between what is real and what is imagined.
Furthermore the remarkable cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki presents the film, even though it takes place over a few days, as a seemingly unbroken shot. There are no obvious cuts. This fluidity of visual presentation supplants the idea of division, and instills a unity throughout the film. This technique implies to the audience that everything is connected and fluidly runs together as one. It’s a beautiful way to juxtapose the contrast between the idea of difference and unity that the film is interested in. The space between the boards of Broadway and the film stock of Hollywood is not as vast as we would think. Birdman suggest they are part of the same tangential life that we experience as human creators. It’s a trip. It’s also entertaining as hell.
This is all heady, conceptual bullcrap that I’m spouting, but regardless of if you are looking to muse over the meanings or just be entertained by the ride of great filmmakers and excellent actors, then treat yourself. Yes, this may not feel like holiday fare film. It isn’t a Christmas classic, but Birdman might have more in common with It’s a Wonderful Life than you think. See it. And get your spectrum mashup of experiences with a little levitation and gun play to top it off. It’s always a good season for that.