"Birdman:" A Triumph of Self-Consciousness

January 30, 2015 7:57 PM

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If there were an Academy Award for self-conscious film direction, Birdman would win hands down. The movie is shot as if in one continuous, nearly-two-hour take, with occasional changes of scene, but no actual cuts or normal cinematic transitions. This highly contrived and artificial technique necessitates that the camera incessantly follow characters from one location to another, with copious quantities of close-ups, inducing a claustrophobic effect. The net effect is to make the viewer continuously conscious of the camera, rather than the subject matter of the film. It is as if the director is insisting that we acknowledge his artsiness and technical expertise, rather than allowing the camera to work without forcing us to give our attention to it, and therefore to him.

Alejandro Inarritu's self-conscious direction takes other forms as well. His lead character is given to feats of occult prowess, including levitation and telekinesis. For most of the film, these acts occur only when he is alone, which allows the viewer to assume that they are acts only imagined by t...

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