“a thing is a thing, not what is said of the thing” Quote on Riggin Thomsen’s dressing room mirror.
The quote above was fished out of the opening frames from this month’s flick. It announces the evening’s match up, ordinary reality vs. fame. Through that lens we’ll catch a glimpse of what the main character is aiming at and perspective for his transformation in the end. The subtitle of the movie is “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.” The question we must divine for ourselves is, whose ignorance? His, hers, or ours?
Forging onward in this series called “Films of Our Enemies,” we rack focus on a recent hit by a Hispanic that lots of us consider hip. But even if his films don’t meet your test, or if to equate ticket sales, with love, is too much of a stretch, his list of top awards alone shall amply attest, Antonio G. Iñaratu has made six outstanding features and each one exceeds the last.
I don’t know if he’s a US citizen now, or if Iñarratu’s work permit must constantly be renewed. He’s made movies here more than anywhere else, but Z Films, of which he is the founder, happens to be one of that country’s largest motion picture companies. As a result, cultural enrichment and monetary benefit are being appreciated on both sides of the border.
He was born, raised and made his name in Mexico City, yet we love this man and he loves us. His films have grossed over a quarter billion in the U.S. Are we going to resent this Mexicano working in our country when what he is creating such a win/win? Just as importantly, his artistry enjoys worldwide renown. Most importantly, while there has been all this talk of erecting a wall between us, Iñarratu’s work piles up reason-upon-reason to leave it down.
Iñarratu’s not some special case, no, not even close. We could dedicate years to extolling the virtues of Mexican artists and crafts persons working in el Norte since we became its host. And their native ancestors made huge strides for all of us here before we arrived. While we watch this current, 21st century work of cinematic fine art, let’s be open to how Iñarratu’s craft makes us appreciate the entire collective soul and history of Latin America as part of what we call home.
We can’t just suddenly say to the Mexican people, ok, we’ve absorbed your artists, cuisine, sportsman, musicians, etc. Now, go away and leave us alone. There are things we couldn’t imagine living without that Mexico has bestowed on our country. Not just material things, I mean great veins of common sense, abundance of agreeable natures and motherloads of mindful routines, some kind of sweat equity that is handed down by people living in one place for generations.
People are the source of those riches. If you push away those people, the culture they left behind will disintegrate. It won’t be the same. Flavors will soon loose their taste. The thing will be lost that attracted us in the first place.
In his fifth film, “Birdman,” Iñarratu’s stature as a storyteller attains new heights, thanks to a gifted group of players and an infectiously out-of-the-box-office approach. It’s a dark comedy about art and fame paraded as a legit stage product (concealed in a hit screenplay). It’s a comic book hitched to a literary work, too, by the way. With its gag-on-gag pile-up, kinesthetic camera eye and impeccable, hectic pace, conventions of the “madcap” genre are fulfilled to the last frame, where they are, finally, literally, tossed out the window.
The director may be jabbing at the beast that made him millions, but mainly he takes aim at the flaws in all of us that breed and feast on fame. Witness that much and more, in this thundering, bounding, stalking, single-take fable of a down and out clown’s reincarnation, from dying blockbuster idol to avant-guardian angel, during the opening of a nerve-fraying Broadway debut.
From the opening cards, Antonio Sanchez’s shimmery, pressurized drum track becomes something reminiscent of the accompaniment to a high wire act. And that’s no accident. Almost everything about this production feels like a wildly timed stunt.
By the way, if you become intrigued as I did, with drummer Sanchez, dial in “Migration” (2007) combining Sanchez’s skills with the likes of Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Chris Potter and Christian McBride. He’s also done a bit of touring with the film, supplying the drum work live, in house. He’ll be bringing it at the Rafael Film Center on February 18, 2017. An experience not to be missed if you ever get the chance.
Back to the film, Sandoval makes maximum use of his kit to accompany Riggin Thomsen’s passage from epiphany to catastrophe and back in three acts. What better sound could back this acrobatic panic attack than a drummer, solo riffing, to the camera’s hyper-vigilant track?
This was a clever choice, pairing a single musical instrument with the single take stunt like this, providing combustive thrust to all the rest. Syncopations somehow help nail down the moment. Something seems to be constantly whipped into foment. The storyline turns on dime-after-dime, hilariously, as plot twist after plot twist, like so many gags, are set up on one beat and smacked home the next.
Extended talk sequences seem anything but long, covered as they are, like prizefights, bounding with camera feats and authentic fist-a-cuffs, both hand-held and locked-down, goosing it constantly with inventive pans, radical trucking shots, impossible push-throughs, soaring crane moves; all sorts of acrobatic treats for the eyes, punctuated by that irregular, punchy rumble, crash, addictive smack bam boom in the ears. This film is crammed with virtuoso cinematic stunts and tour de force slights of lens.
CONTINUES NEXT MONTH