Notes on Birdman

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  • Central problem: modern artists have to fight against the public, media and critics for their authenticity.
  • In 8 ½ Fellini needed an idea for a movie, he fought a much greater fight with himself about the meaning of life than just Birdman’s temptation to go down the easy lane to obtain money and fame. Reporter asking about Barthes is clearly Fellini’s critic he imagined hanging, yet today he gets only few seconds of screen time, he isn’t representing a point of view, not in our times.

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  • This movie makes fun of comic-book heroes for their immaturity (rightly) but hides that the main challenge in Birdman is to make an uncreative adaptation in order to be seen as a real artist, that is an authentic one. Making a work of art itself doesn’t concern anybody – even the ‘evil critic’ only cheers hyperrealism for its own sake.

 

  • The tempo and the cinematic work here is outstanding. It’s a fantastic attention grabber, a most enjoyable projection. It is a movie-long dance in Fellini’s tradition, however, a very psychotic one.

 

  • Again, too bad the director mistakes going deeper psychologically with just showing more of the backstage – yet this is just too obvious and common nowadays, it might be even the right way to proceed.

 

  • Finally, let’s go back and reconsider this obsession with authenticity. It’s not that bad actually. As we try to rethink the channel of transmission between life and art, new ideas emerge. Authenticity means this channel is working properly. The same problem was considered in a much more impressive way by Linklater in Boyhood and of course by Knausgaard in his Struggle books. But Iñárritu has chosen the right direction; at least he looks where he should be looking. (Although in the end it practically destroys his hero).

 

  • His question is between being inauthentic but popular and successful on one side and going through hell to find some traces of ‘high art’ in oneself – interesting as in the latter case this is both ‘truthful’ and ‘created’ (=fake?) in a way, as he (Keaton) was never to be considered an artist before. For him Carver is a brand new way of expression, an unnatural one. So that to succeed he has to create for himself a totally new essence not just a new mask. Doesn’t it mean: to deceive more skillfully?

 

  • We arrive at the happy end because he does just so – by blowing off his nose. He pays the price; he takes his art seriously despite lacking talent. So in the end, it’s better to do high art without proper skill, with just strong will, than to do low (wrong?) art (a sequel of a superhero movie). Why? In the end only public decides which is which (remember serious critics are villains!) – what is the point again? We are supposed to turn ourselves into something we are not, with perfect dedication, and be judged only by popular belief. Scary! To aim at theirs’ image of high art, simply, to make high art lookalikes is the goal!

 

  • Also there is Norton – an actor with decent talent who lacks those skills in real life. I like to think that, yeah, a great man should be proficient in both – and his character is a really good caricature to show this. (and it doesn’t mean his ‘bad relations with people outside work’ are the problem, rather his impotency outside work, him lacking experience of living a life with passions, while Fellini showed off his adventures life)

 

  • To sum up. Back in the days, of 8 ½ etc., we talked what are relations between life and art and if one can inspire the other enough in order to create something grand. Fellini showed he effortlessly transforms his days into his movies, if only he wishes to do so. It destroys life but lets him live in the imaginary, live like he always wanted, as a genius and as amaster of all around him.

 

  • In the present people don’t judge the effect, they judge your sources. It’s not important if the movie made out of life pieces is a good one, but rather if the parts of your life that you included are genuine (and this must be proved! in any way). It’s not a drawback in itself. It compels you (the artist) to create new mechanisms of transmission between your true life and art – now you really have to be that guy you show on screen, you have to show links you used to the audience. Birdman comments on the situation in a visually stunning way, but doesn’t actually take part in the game – like Boyhood does. It also shows this situation as a burden for the director, a painful test. It shouldn’t – it is a new day – it’s the new art, that which incorporates authentic pieces of your life, not just ideas and inspirations borrowed from it. Citation needed! [in fact there’s only one real rule – be believable]

 

  • Final argument. We do need to focus on authenticity in art ( the life – art transmission) – in order to invent new, original, mesmerizing ways of expressing it in our works – and not, like in Birdman, just to do whatever is enough to satisfy the general audience. Tracey Emin’s tent isn’t very impressive anymore.
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