Any clip of film, or video, captured with hand-held cameras, or body-mount is, first and foremost, the document of the operator’s physical grace. In the movie “Birdman” an artist by the name of Chris Harhoff wore the Steadicam. His physical fitness, plus his brain’s command of eye, hand and foot, motored by his heaving, spirit-fueled frame, is built in to this entire film. By the way, did you realize it is that comic book hero Birdman that originates at the source of our omniscient point-of-view? The director and DP determined this to be the way to tell this tory most effectively. The most effective way was certainly not the easiest, in this case. Everyone involved pushed it to the max to pull off the real-time feel that “Birdman,” manages to put across.
It may be hard for us to imagine how skillfully the director and actors worked with the technicians, behind-the-scenes, to have their interactions weave in such fluid choreography. The finished product makes it look so easy. The action is made up of one single, seamlessly spun, high-charged, ever-shifting, travelling dialog sequence; from taboo romance, up on the roof of the theater, to the revolving door of actors constantly entering and exiting its stage and backstage, to the, hungover cheek-to-concrete reality-check, doggin’ Riggin Thomson in the street at the dawn of opening night day.
Riggin Thomson’s saga offers some comic relief for my own mid-life disonance. For dudes past fifty, this film’s main character achieves close to universal resonance. Boomers, most of us having physically peaked by this age, are doing some heavy reevaluating during our fifth and sixth decades. Here, this prima donna-past-his-prime’s life suddenly doesn’t look so different from mine. Poor Riggin. I have felt the same way as he, in front of my own reflection. Or, when he is shamed for not having a presence on Twitter.
Essentially, the movie allows us to eavesdrop, for three days, on the same lines of sight of this Birdman comicbook action character, who is following around this famous actor, Riggin Thomson, harassing him into making Birdman 4. Meanwhile, Riggin tries to rehabilitate himself as an artist by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway hit, adapted from a very serious piece of American lit. As it goes with pop media driven notoriety, the line between the man and the creature he’s impersonating is blurring.
But, to analyze all the themes that echo and fugue throughout “Birdman” would take a good many servings. Hither, brews a controversy over what constitutes art and who’s its authority. Yonder, weaves a crisis between preoccupied father and wounded daughter. Coincidentally, there is relevant comparisons to be made pertaining to our current quantum shift in politics. Fame was something Riggin Thomson uses to leverage a legitimate career in the American theater. Ironically, it turns out, the same trick gets entertainers into to politics.
I’m drawn back, once again, to that conspicuous phrase on Riggin’s dressing room mirror. A thing is a thing, not what is said of the thing. That almost identical quote spoken of in the previous post is attributed to the author JL Borges, “we may mention or allude to a thing but not express it.” His English translation of “Labyrinths” provides a cameo in “Birdman.” Ed Norton’s character clutches a copy while browning his skin under a tanning lamp. It’s the same book that the actor protects himself with, like a shield, against Riggin Thomson’s indignant slaps after a particularly bad rehearsal mishap. Among the many other conclusions one could draw from finding Borges embedded in Innaratu’s comic opus, we are confronted with two dazzling latin american intellects. And there are so many to chose from. Whether it be La Cucaracha, Carlos Santana, Montezuma or La Guadalupana, most of us whites in the United States, consciously or otherwise, have admired someone from Latin America. It’s an historic love affair, we share with the browner nations. You need proof? We like the Mexican so much so that we artificially tan our skin in imitation.
Iñarratu spins an ornately plotted web, like Borges did in his “Labyrinths”. For example La Escritura del Dios, is a six page short in “Labyrinths” that zooms out so fast, the end renders what went before as almost incidental. The ending of “Birdman – The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance,” seems to give us the same slip, when Riggin, instead of being pulled back into his life by his sudden, unimaginable success, is drawn beak-first, out the window, to the sky where, we assume, by following his daughter’s gaze, we’re tracking some newborn bird, trying out his new wings. His daughter chuckles, as the last scrap of dialog in the fade-to-black firmament of this film’s finale. It sounds positively carefree.