Of the famous ‘Three Amigos’ of Mexican cinema, about whom we’ve written at length over the years, Alejandro González Iñárritu is perhaps the most artistically inclined; opting for Cannes over the Oscars while sticking to lower budgets and headier themes. His ‘death trilogy’ of films made with close friend and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga were characterized by their fragmented narratives and distinctive visual style and ultimately won him a best director award at Cannes for 2006’s Babel. Now it seems he’s made a superhero flick.
That’s right, the opening night film at this year’s Venice Film Festival is González Iñárritu’s latest feature, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). While it seems this might be bit out of character for the man who brought us gritty urban dramas like Amores Perros and Biutiful — let’s be honest, it’s kind of hard not to make a superhero film these days. And just to show that he knows where it all began, he’s cast Michael Keaton in the starring role of Birdman, along with supporting parts played by big shots like Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis and Naomi Watts.
To be fair, Birdman doesn’t appear to be a superhero movie in the traditional sense, but rather a comedy-drama about a washed-up actor looking to regain a shred of professional dignity by rehashing his role as Birdman in a Broadway production. This seems appropriate enough for González Iñárritu’s realist taste, but a quick glance at the trailer raises a whole boatload of questions, such as: WTF is going on here?
Sure, we see the actor past his prime, wrestling with personal and professional demons, but what is that Randy Savage-esque voiceover egging him on the whole time? Or the giant mechanical birds attacking New York? Keaton’s painfully awkward bird cries? There’s certainly enough going on in this trailer to get me to the theater. Even if it’s just to see a master director stumbling as he reaches a bit too far out of his comfort zone.
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) will have its official U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival in October.