Despite making a big splash with his 2004 feature debut …
The cast and crew, fly high in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), directed by visionary Alejandro González Iñárritu. Michael Keaton stars as Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor who never bounced back from his peak stardom days as part of a 1990s superhero franchise, and who is desperate to gain back some spark for his faded career. Riggan attempts to jolt himself back into the limelight through the triple threat of writing, directing and starring in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
His use of natural lighting, the gorgeous compositions he creates often on the fly, those long takes. This is what we talk about when we talk about Emmanuel Lubezki, the Mexican cinematographer responsible for such arresting imagery in the films of Terrence Malick (The New World, The Tree of Life, To the Wonder), Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Y tu mamá también, Gravity), the Brothers Coen (Burn After Reading), and Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Anna”, a short in the anthology To Each His Own Cinema). He is the only cinematographer in recent memory, possibly next to Roger Deakins, that pushes the form to its limits and has name recognition for such. The naturalistic beauty of The Tree of Life was nothing compared to the – wait for it – physics-defying work in Gravity. And here he is again, using a simulated long take for Iñárritu’s Birdman. “But isn’t it just a gimmick?”, you might ask. Well, yes. And that’s probably the point.
Birdman is highly reminiscent of Noises Off, a play by Michael Frayn, about the insanity of actors as they weave in and out of doing scenes live in front of an audience on-stage. The unpredictable actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) throws Riggan Thomson’s life even more into chaos by his refusal to bend to his wishes. Emma Stone plays Sam, Riggan’s recovering addict daughter who has long been put on the back-burner by her dad. Stone and Norton’s challenging forces irritate but eventually bring Riggan face to face with some hard truths about himself.
Drake Doremus’s latest film, Breathe In, is a taut, emotional drama, starring Guy Pearce as a middle-aged high school music teacher who has never abandoned his dream of becoming a full-time musician. His character, Keith, is living in a state of continual but indifferent regret; despite having a loving wife (Amy Ryan), highly-achieving daughter (Mackenzie Davis) and beautiful house in upstate New York, he yearns for the exciting bohemian lifestyle of his youth, of which only his passion for music remains. The domestic inertia is broken when the family accept an English exchange student into their home, the 18-year-old piano prodigy, Sophie (Felicity Jones), who rekindles Keith’s romantic nostalgia and forces him to revaluate his responsibilities to his family and himself.