Birds of a Feather
I reckon when it comes to 80s movie "Birdy" director Alan Parker is a genius because here he has crafted one of the most compelling movies I have ever watched, with great acting, great pacing, wit and so much else. But the thing which makes it so compelling is trying to find a point to it because to be honest even when the credits rolled I was still left unsure what the point was. You see here we have a movie of friendship, we also have a movie about war and how it affects people, we have a character who is obsessed with birds and another with a face disfigurement and these all merge together to create an entertaining yet ambiguous drama. Maybe that was the intention, to deliver a movie which was ambiguous so that some people felt it was a war movie; others felt it was about friendship whilst others looked for some deeper sub context dealing with the mental state of the two main protagonists. I am not entirely sure as whilst "Birdy" entertained I am not sure what the point was.
Having had major facial reconstruction after being injured in the Vietnam War, Al Columbato (Nicolas Cage - The Cotton Club) is called upon to visit a hospital where his friend Birdy (Matthew Modine - Sex and Lies in Sin City) is, cooped up in his cell, not speaking and perching on the end of his bed. Desperate to try and help Birdy free himself from what ever has put him in this state he reminds him about their friendship, how they met, their escapades and Birdy's fascination with birds.
So I am not going to even attempt to tell you what the point of "Birdy" is because I am not sure. Maybe that is the point, that this is a movie of many things which speaks to people in different ways so that some may see it as a condemnation of war and how it affects soldiers whilst others may see it as a story of this close friendship where Al has always looked out for the bird brain Birdy. And there are other angles as well as some may see it as this movie which has a hidden sub context about the mind whilst others may say the whole movie is just one long intro to a punchline because "Birdy" has an ending which will make you go "what!".
The thing is that because Parker has made "Birdy" almost ambiguous in motive that it becomes compelling, you watch as it flicks from what is the present to the past and whilst being entertained you are trying to make sense of it. That entertainment comes in two forms; the almost humorous style of the flashbacks as we watch Al and Birdy have various escapades from dog catching to Birdy trying to fly to the then visually arresting now with Birdy's cell washed in blue light, his naked body perched on the end of his bed or cowering in a corner by the basin. It makes it a movie which you can't take your eyes off of because it is fascinating and curious.
Add to that the performances of both Nicolas Cage as Al and Matthew Modine as Birdy because both end up playing two characters. As Al Cage gets to play him as a typical high school kid who has girls on the brain but then when we have him after the war and his face half covered in bandages we have this damaged man which Cage emotes brilliantly through his eyes and reactions. Modine as Birdy also has two sides; the quirky high school kid with a fascination for birds and flight then what appears to be the mentally damaged adult who has taken on the persona of a bird in a cage. These performances are a big part of why you keep watching when you are not entirely sure of what is going on or at least what it is all building to.
What this all boils down to is that "Birdy" is a curious movie, a movie which has this aspect of ambiguity as to what the point is but it is part of the reason why it is so compelling. It is also compelling because it is visually beautiful as well as being well acted with both Cage and Modine taking on two sides to their characters.
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