Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

Never has a film that wasn’t a biopic haunted me more than last night’s Bath Film Festival preview screening of Birdman.

Emma Stone’s unforgiving eyes as she yells at her father about the inconsequential nature of their existence greeted me as I woke this morning. The deep dark voice of Birdman soliloquised at me on the power of the Blockbuster as I got ready for work. Later, as I logged on to my computer, Edward Norton smashed his way through my subconscious. And at quieter moments, I could hear the unabashed laughter of Zach Galifanakis and the wandering woeful words of Michael Keaton. 

But beyond every star turn, each Oscar worthy in its own right, and the spectacular and mesmerising cinematography (can I have the envelope, please) there something subtly disturbing which makes this simultaneously a work of genius and one I would be wary to recommend. 

The film is set up as one long tracking shot. The camera appears to simply move from scene to scene, allowing time to pass and following actors as and when it chooses to. For the most part there are no visible cuts. So, when some sequences don’t match up it leaves the audience feeling somehow out of place. A bar down the street from the theatre is several buildings further away on the journey out than it is on the return walk. 

This type of disjointed continuous shot is not uncommon in cinema. It was famously, or infamously, used by Kubrick in The Shining. In this adaptation of Stephen King’s best selling novel, a young boy on a tricycle is followed by the camera in one sequence along corridors and through rooms that have been established as being on separate floors of Overlook Hotel. 

As well as this impossible architecture, Birdman is full of impossible shots, like The Shining. It also features the same hexagonal carpet in several backstage sequences as this classic horror. 

This film is impossibly brilliant.

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