Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) ★★★★½

I first saw Birdman at the Chicago International Film Festival and then a month or so later at the same theater. I'm still thinking about this very creative piece of filmmaking. Is it the film of the year? Maybe. It's an hypnotic film, partly because of the amazing cinematography. I loved all the long tracking shots following actors down the backstage corridors of old theaters, mainly the St. James Theatre on 44th Street. Actually, it was probably the backstage theater nature of this film that made me like it so much. The street scenes in the theater district and from the theater roof were fabulous. In one scene, the Edison Hotel on 47th Street, where I stayed last year, makes a cameo.

The performances by Michael Keaton and Edward Norton are gnarly, gritty and masterful. (Norton’s performance made me go back and watch Fight Club again. A great film, but not a fun film. It’s one that gives you a lot to chew on.) There’s been some criticism about Birdman’s plot and about Keaton’s character, the unravelling actor whose success is in the past. But there is substance to the film in Riggan’s angst about his career and his life and how he approaches regenerating both. I don’t agree with David Edelstein that this is an “empty masterpiece” or “a triumph of vacuous virtuosity.” Most critics gave it high praise. But okay, maybe it’s not Hamlet.

It is definitely an hypnotic film, partly because of the amazing cinematography. It’s also the most wildly creative film I’ve seen in a long time. Joyous, high energy, madly manic … and sad.