Riggan Thomson: Sixty’s the new thirty, motherfucker!
Caden Cotard: …and all those years in between.
Private moments alone in the dark have a limited number of outcomes. But pre-dawn hours on Monday morning became a classic when the first movement of Moonlight Sonata came on the radio. No other sound except faint wind and mysterious notes floating in dull urbanlight. Forty-five minutes of the same track later, an announcement that someone significant had died surfaced at 04:25. The subject in question, had earned in his lifetime, the privilege of being the tribute of a broadcast — as the nation lay in deep slumber. For others — the sleepless — it was equal parts in rotten and wonderful to be a member of Beethoven’s audience under such circumstances. Buried pathology was at work. The liquid nitrogen.
Weeks ago, I took a hit by confusing Alejandro G. Iñárritu with Guillermo del Toro and referenced Pacific Rim, Pan’s Labyrinth when S wanted to know “which movies this Birdman guy made.” Had the question been asked at the end (not the beginning) of this film, I would’ve presumed accurately. The animal violence and unbridled passion so explicitly shown in Love is a Bitch may’ve been missing, but his trademark obsession with melancholia so keenly felt in the last scenes of Babel, even vivid sketches of sex and death from cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (And Your Mother Too) were progressively recognizable in this parody of show business in Hollywood.
I consider Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) a mainstream, more fashionable variant of meta-film Synecdoche, New York. Insofar as mad theatre is concerned, Charlie Kaufman arrived long before G. Iñárritu showed up with Birdman — a theatrical fabrication of really messed-up people and their first world problems. The similarity in themes and motifs; right down to the fact that both films were driven by long expositions from schizophrenic protagonists is uncanny.
Where the idea of hyperreality in Birdman was channelled through a combination of 1) one seamless take for the running time of 120 minutes and 2) dissociative spectrums between washed-up celebrity Riggan Thomson and his psycho-duplicate in Birdman (a superhero character Riggan once played) — Synecdoche, New York was far more subtle and sophisticated with theatre director Caden Cotard and the unflinching reality of middle-aged pain. The final transition in Birdman is bizarre and provokes ongoing analysis, but underscores the difference in world views between both film makers.
When it comes to art and fantasy, reality and unreality, irreality and hyperreality: an optimist like G. Iñárritu negotiates male disappointment with a giant mechanical bird that hovers over New York City; the pessimist in Charlie Kaufman sees a pensive human incapable of action, completely swallowed by it.
Buried pathology was always at work, and a keen sense self-awareness about life and death make both films equally rigorous. They could be enjoyed as a whole, in the form of a double feature.