As the summer movie season starts to fade away, the talk of the cinema sphere quickly shifts to the next phase– the awards season. Kick-starting the season, as usual, comes with the bang of the fall festival season– the trifecta of the Telluride, Toronto and Venice film festivals. As each festival– in quite competitive fashion– tries to map out their line-ups, the Venice Film Festival has leaped out with a big catch– Alejandro González Iñárritu’s highly anticipated new film Birdman will open the 71st edition of the festival. It will mark the official world premiere of Iñárritu’s black comedy, being distributed stateside by Fox Searchlight Pictures, and will screen as a part of the Venice’s main competition. Last year, the programmers at Venice scored another coup with the world premiere of Alfonso Cuarón’s eventual Oscar winning behemoth Gravity.
Birdman (the full title of which is Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) tells the story of a washed up actor Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton) mounting a comeback. Thomson came to fame in years past playing an iconic superhero and is now battling his family, his ego and internal demons as he tries to resurrect his career in the form of a new Broadway play. The trailer, which premiered recently, made a bold first impression, mining the fantastical with the cerebral, while deftly presenting the meta approach to the material– the casting alone of the former “Batman” alone makes an interesting touch. As does the sudden about-face in terms of style and tone for director Iñárritu, who in the past is known for his miserablist dramas like Babel, 21 Grams and Biutiful. The director received an Oscar nomination for directing Babel, which also won the Directors prize at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Birdman was written by Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Armando Bo (both scripted Biutiful) and Alexander Dinelaris and boasts a pedigree that includes Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity.)
The film featured an all-star supporting cast which includes Emma Stone (herself a superhero movie alum thanks to two Spider-Man outings), Andrea Risenborough (Oblivion), Zack Galifianakis, Emmy winner Merritt Weaver (Nurse Jackie) and previous Oscar nominees Edward Norton, Amy Ryan and Naomi Watts. Watts previously worked with Iñárritu on the 2003 film 21 Grams, for which she earned an Oscar nominee. 21 Grams was also the last Iñárritu film to premiere at Venice. Birdman will open Venice on August 27, 2014. The festival runs from August 27th thru September 6th. Fox Searchlight will release the film in North America on October 17th in the hopes of sparking awards interest.