'Birdman' director's flight of fancy may reap reward of Oscar

Wed Feb 11, 2015 10:11am EST
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By Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - From the first scene showing actor Michael Keaton levitating in his underwear, it becomes quite clear that "Birdman" will not unfold in a conventional way.

A favorite to win the Academy Award for best picture, director Alejandro G. Inarritu's satirical jab at show business takes the audience down a cinematic rabbit hole - and not just because it takes place in the warren of a Broadway theater.

Upon embarking on "Birdman," the Mexican filmmaker felt that cinematic storytelling was a "little bit stuck" and he wanted to do something novel because audiences deserved it.

The film industry, Inarritu says, tends to make movies that are comfortable or easy to understand for the audience, "without inviting them to explore different ways to believe cinema or stories and the infinite possibilities that cinema offers."

The exploration in "Birdman" includes the technical - filming in what appears to be one continuous shot by Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. The camera winds its way through dressing rooms and hallways, around the stage as actors rehearse, onto the building ledge and out onto the streets of Broadway.

It is also emotional. Keaton's Riggan Thomson, the washed up actor attempting a comeback with his own ponderous Broadway play, contends with the voice of his most famous film character, the super hero "Birdman," who berates him with criticism.

The director of "Amores Perros" and "Babel" doesn't tie his first comedy in a neat package, leaving Riggan's fate at the film's end open to interpretation.

"It's not easy to break rules and it is not easy to be brave to finance and risk money on it," Inarritu said, speaking by telephone from wintery Calgary where he is filming frontiersman drama "The Revenant."   Continued...

Mexican film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu poses for a portrait while promoting his upcoming movie "Birdman" in Los Angeles, California in this file photo taken on December 16, 2014.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni