Film review: Birdman ******

Michael Keaton in Birdman. Picture: PA
Michael Keaton in Birdman. Picture: PA
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ACCORDING to Konstantin Stanislavski and Lee Strasberg, two founding fathers of method acting, the best performers possess the rare ability to channel deeply personal recollections and emotions through their characters.

These actors don’t just play a role as written, they share every breath and straining sinew with their alter ego.

In Birdman, Michael Keaton inhabits the role of a middle-aged Hollywood star, whose glory days as a big screen superhero are long behind him.

It’s the role of a lifetime for Keaton – the role of his lifetime, no less, nodding and winking to his two stints behind Batman’s cowl under director Tim Burton in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Art and real life playfully blur in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s technically dazzling comedy, which was shot on location in New York.

In one of the film’s bravura handheld sequences, Keaton strides purposefully through crowded, neon-lit Times Square in just his underpants as tourists clamour with their mobile devices. Literally and figuratively, he bares his soul.

Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who deservedly won an Oscar for sci-fi thriller Gravity, meticulously splice together each interlude to resemble a single, unbroken 119-minute shot.

If you look closely, you can see the joins but, as a feat of split-second timing, balletic choreography and directorial brio, Birdman is jaw-dropping – right down to the moment the camera casually pans to a drummer on the street playing the same beats and rolls of Antonio Sanchez’s improvised jazz score.