When producer John Lesher first told me way back in June that “Birdman” was a bit of a “magic trick” designed to look like a single take, my jaw dropped. How had I not heard about this? “We're not really talking about it too much,” he said at the time, a few months ahead of the film's Venice film festival debut. Which is fair enough. You don't want the technique to overshadow the experience of the film.
But then again, the technique of “Birdman” is the experience. It's the thematic soul of its very existence. So naturally, I was dying to talk to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (“Chivo”) once the season got underway. Only problem: he was stuck in Calgary shooting Alejandro González Iñárritu's follow-up, “The Revenant,” a production that runs through April. What???
Suffice it to say I've never been so desperate to get someone on the phone. But I also understand why one might want to stay away from all of this for a moment. As Iñárritu and I discussed the morning of the Golden Globe nominations (when he was driving to a location with Chivo in tow), it's best to stay busy when the insanity of awards season takes hold. And for Chivo's part, he just came off a whirlwind with “Gravity” that ended with an Academy Award for Best Cinematography. The prospect of diving back into the circuit's press demands had to be an unattractive one.
Nevertheless, 'tis the season for miracles! We finally connected Saturday morning and I talked his ear off about this masterpiece I consider to be the best film of the year, the difficulty in filming it with a series of extended takes through the constructed bowels of a Broadway theater (the production design in this film really is an unsung hero), the challenges in staging those scenes, let alone lighting them, and what it took to pull off that outrageous Times Square sequence.
So Christmas came early for me. I was a kid in a candy story. Read through my euphoria below.
HitFix: Hey Chivo!
Emmanuel Lubezki: Mr. Kris. How are you?
I'm doing cartwheels.
I finally have you on the phone! You have no idea. I was going to drive to Calgary.
You should have! To see what we were, you know – it was rough. It was nasty. It was cold.