“Birdman” is getting a whole lot of love right now, which is reassuring news for those those of us who crave artful, challenging pictures (the type that are usually released around the holidays). The film’s widespread acceptance is also surprising when you consider what an strange, wonderfully fucked-up, unconventional movie it is. Back when I saw it in early February, I walked out dazed, giddy, high off cinema. I genuinely had no idea what the public would make of Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu’s latest, a fearless excursion into one actor’s creative id, but the response has, for the most part, been rapturous. Innaritu’s feverish dark comedy has been critically acclaimed, is looking at some probable Oscar love, and has recently picked up nods from the ASC and the National Board of Review.
There are lots of reasons to see “Birdman”: the much-discussed cinematography, Antonio Sanchez’s rib-rattling score, the final shot. More than anything though, this is an actor’s film: some are cast against type (Zach Galifinakis), some come off the leash entirely (Emma Stone). Michael Keaton and Edward Norton give the film’s two biggest performances, each riffing somewhat on their public personas, and they deliver many of the film’s funniest moments, and also its most scathing. Fans of “Birdman” will want to check out a recent, AFI-hosted Q&A where Keaton and Norton dish about working with Innaritu (or, as Keaton calls him, “the maniac from Mexico City”), the difference between acting versus the movie industry, and Keaton’s very particular aversion to the term “meta.”
The technical details of Innaritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s vision for the film as a heightened, one-take, waking musical dream are the stuff of legend by now. The actors get the expected questions about the visual schematics out of the way fairly quickly, recollecting when they had to count steps and hit marks while the crew measured entire hallways so everything could be choreographed seamlessly with Innaritu’s cracked vision. Keaton in particular is full of praise for the crew, even going as far as to give us a rather McConaughey-like phrase in the form of “every movie’s everybody” (he seems like a good dude). Norton is the same articulate, gravely serious man he’s been in interviews for years now, although he actually busts out an unexpected, kind-of-funny impression of his director at one point. It’s an informative and mostly entertaining chat with two of our most gifted actors talking about one of the year’s most original and arresting films. Watch the entire Q&A session below.