Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Flight of the Phoenix; Director Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu Revives the Theme of Resurrection in the Superhero Spoof 'Birdman.'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Flight of the Phoenix; Director Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu Revives the Theme of Resurrection in the Superhero Spoof 'Birdman.'

Article excerpt

"Life and death are illusions," says Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu. "We are in a constant state of transformation."

The acclaimed director of "Babel," "21 Grams" and the new film "Birdman" hails from Mexico, where the ghost-themed Day of the Dead is as sacred as Christmas or Easter, but his attitude toward resurrected spirits is more scientific than scriptural. "We have always existed in different forms carbon, oxygen, water, heat. Maybe heaven is this brief period when the elements realize they're alive."

The web of life and the transition to the next phase have been recurring themes in Irritu's films since his debut, "Amores Perros," in 2000. That Spanish-language sensation traced the intersecting fissures of a car accident, from the underworld of dog-fighting to the penthouse suite of a supermodel. In the English-language "21 Grams," another car accident is the pivot for a story about a life- saving heart transplant. And in the multilingual "Babel," three stories on three continents are connected to a random shooting in North Africa.

For the record, those intricately woven films were written by Guillermo Arriaga. With the self-penned "Birdman," which opens Friday, Inarritu has metamorphosed into a sleight-of-hand trickster. It's a farce about a fading movie star named Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) who tries to transcend his superhero typecasting by adapting a serious play on Broadway. "It's a suicidally bad way to resurrect his career," Irritu says.

As Thompson rehearses the play, he is tormented by his costumed alter-ego, Birdman, who cajoles him to make another comic-book movie, and by a scene-stealing co-star (Ed Norton) who tries to rewrite the script.

Irritu admits it's no coincidence that he cast Keaton, who starred in two "Batman" movies before fading from the A list. The director says he wrote the role with Keaton in mind. "Of course, he is one of the few actors who has actually worn a cape on screen, but Michael also has the craft to combine comedy and drama. He has a unique lightness about him."

That lightness expresses itself in fantasy sequences where the character literally levitates and flies through Manhattan. …

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