New films

Just seen ‘Birdman’: it’s a virtuoso exercise in directing by Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu. The screenplay too is extraordinary. Every actor in the piece is at the top of their game, most of all Emma Stone. I note that the New Yorker calls it ‘a mighty and churning machine of virtuosity that delivers a work of utterly familiar and unoriginal drama’. Sadly a misconceived or under-conceived ending does let the film down, perhaps even reveals that the film doesn’t in the end know what to say. But my God, what a film! I’m just grateful for so much style, so much energy, so much to provoke thought. Rob Marshall’s ‘Into the Woods’, the Sondheim musical on screen, is also a virtuoso act by a director, and tremendous fun, and is also marred by a last section which leaves me disappointed. This is not Marshall’s fault, of course: it’s Sondheim, reaching for a fourth act to deliver yet another overturning of expectations. Contrast these two fizzers with ‘Selma’, which is a worthy telling of a key episode in the civil rights struggle. An infinitely more important subject, and a far duller film.