“A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.”
So declares the card pinned to Riggan Thompson’s (Michael Keaton) dressing room mirror, a phrase which is as central to Birdman as anything voiced or done by it’s characters, and which, in its silent declaration, renders any attempt at criticism of Birdman all but null.
This much is certain, though: Birdman is the best film of 2015, and we’re only days in.
A near-masterful feat in cinematography, Birdman is comprised from 15 minute long unbroken shots, cunningly edited to give the illusion of a single, Russian Ark-esqe continuous take, using the speed and stillness of the frame to enhance the effect of the spectacle.
And boy does Birdman have spectacle. In one shot Transformers clash with Iron Men to the silenced clatter of a military drum band, in another Keaton literally soars above the Broadway setting, unleashing carnage on all below in a tirade of tacky visual effects in a simultaneous critique and love letter to blockbuster cinema. Keaton was right in his acceptance speech to say that, after this, there’s not a single A-lister in the room who won’t fall over themselves to work with director Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Birdman manages to be all this whilst also being, quite frankly, hilarious. Keaton nails the paired parody and tragedy of his character so that every word uttered simultaneously drips with dark humour and reveals an inner vulnerability, and Keaton isn’t alone. There is not a single bad performance in this film, with each supporting actor orbiting and colliding with Keaton to brilliant effect.
All in all, Birdman is one man’s fight for relevancy and, eventually, honesty in a world which seeks to condense his art into soundbites, labels and ‘x out of 10’ reviews. And here we reach the critical: critical impasse. What can be said about a film which defies anyone say anything about it? Birdman isn’t ‘superb’, Birdman isn’t ‘genius’. Hell, Birdman isn’t even ‘good’. Birdman is Birdman, and not anything I can say about Birdman.
Honestly, if you want to know Birdman, just see it.