Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest film, the black comedy entitled “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” is scheduled to close out the 52nd New York Film Festival. Iñárritu’s unexpected turn to comedy has been building buzz since “Birdman” premiered at the Venice film festival with some talking Oscar for the director and the film’s star Michael Keaton. That being said, let’s take a look back to get a refresher on the filmmaker’s work, prior to the highly anticipated Oct. 11 showings at the NYFF.
Iñárritu blasted onto the scene with his 2000 debut film “Amores Perros” aka “Love’s a B*tch.” The film is a stylistic drama telling the stories of several characters whose lives become intertwined through the events of a terrible car crash. The inventive thriller is an achievement on many levels and received praise for its cinematography, editing, acting and directing. It went on to win a number of awards including the Chicago International Film Festival’s “Gold Hugo,” and introduced audiences to the talents of actor Gael García Bernal while breaking Iñárritu through from his native Mexico into mainstream American film.
Iñárritu’s followup film “21 Grams” was released in 2003. Starring Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro, this was the second of a loose-fitting “death” trilogy and like its predecessor, ties its characters together through a horrific accident. The film stayed true to the director’s choppy, gritty style and with its unique color palette, captured a bleak tonal quality not often seen in film. This story of love, guilt, revenge and redemption was highly received as it went on to grab Oscar nods for both Watts and Del Toro and helped solidify Iñárritu as a cinematic force.
The third film in Iñárritu’s unofficial trilogy, and his final collaboration with screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, was 2006’s “Babel.” The film tells the story of a married couple, Richard (Brad Pitt) and his wife Susan (Cate Blanchett), who are dealt a tragic blow when Susan is inadvertently shot while on vacation in the remote Moroccan desert. Over the course of the film we are set on a journey that brings together seemingly unrelated families while spanning across continental borders. “Babel” is a tragic life story with rich, political commentary and deeply interesting characters. It contains top-notch performances from Adriana Barraza and Gael García Bernal and was showered with nominations and awards, including a Golden Globe win for Best Drama.
“Biutiful” marked Iñárritu’s first attempt at feature film screenwriting and his new collaboration with writing pair Armando Bo and Nicolás Giacobone. The film was released in 2010 and starred Javier Bardem, Maricel Álvarez and Hanaa Bouchaib. It is a human-trafficking story that follows Uxbal (Bardem), a conflicted man living in Barcelona, who is desperately trying to reshape his life while reconciling with his children. The ultra-bleak film, while not receiving praises like his previous trio of less-linear pictures, still pulled an excellent performance from Bardem, who went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Iñárritu’s latest film, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” is the writer/director’s first attempt at a full-fledged comedy. The film, again co-written with Giacobone and Bo, along with newcomer Alexander Dinelaris, follows washed-up actor Riggan Thomson (Keaton) as he embarks on an existential journey, battling his ego, while attempting to mount a successful Broadway play. “Birdman” has a killer ensemble cast including the above-mentioned Keaton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, Edward Norton and Zach Galifianakis.
It’s been fourteen years since a little-known director rocked American audiences with one of the best foreign-language films in years. Now, taking his first bold stab at comedy, we’ll see if he can rock ‘em again with “Birdman.” The film will screen on closing night of the fest, Saturday, Oct. 11 as part of the New York Film Festival’s Main Slate with Iñárritu and select cast members said to be in attendance. Visit the NYFF52 website for all showtimes and availability.