'Birdman' with Michael Keaton kicks off Venice Festival with acclaim

By Daniel Levine,

Today is the start of the 71st edition of the Venice Film Festival, the oldest festival in the world. It is essentially the start of the awards season, with the ceremony kicking off with Birdman. The new film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and starring Michael Keaton is widely expected to be in the running for major awards and it looks like it lived up to what critics expected.

Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a former comic book movie star who is hoping to mount a Broadway show. It features a long list of great supporting stars, including Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis and Naomi Watts. Critics are also quick to point out that the film was shot by Gravity’s Emmanuel Lubezki and the fact that the film is made to appear like one super long take. Yes, the plot jumps in time, but this provides us a unique view of Riggan’s life.

“Because we see it in a single run-through, the rehearsal of Riggan’s play itself looks and feels a great piece of theatre – live, unpredictable, loose as a dream, yet also fatalistically locked on course,” The Guardian’s Robbie Collin wrote in his five-star review.

Variety’s Peter Debruge praised Norton’s performance, suggesting that he’s even better than Keaton at some points. He also called it “by far the most fascinating meta-deconstruction of an actor’s ego since Being John Malkovich, and one that leaves no room for vanity.”

TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde was also impressed with the film’s look at actors and pointed out the film’s “fantastical moments.” These “often border on the precious, but the writers are mostly successful at circling around and making them pay off at the end,” he wrote.

American audiences won’t have to wait long to see Birdman. The film opens here on Oct. 17. Its full title is Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

image courtesy of INFphoto.com

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