What directors have a flawless body of work? I'd have no hesitation in arguing that director Alejandro González Iñárritu is one of the few. Okay, maybe not flawless, but close.
This Saturday March 30 at 9.30pm, SBS ONE screens his most widely seen feature film, Babel, starring our Cate (Blanchett) and Brad Pitt, who recently became the first man to front a Chanel 5 advertisement. Then, at the same time the following week, SBS ONE airs his fourth and latest film, Biutiful, starring the mesmerising Javier Bardem. What a (double) treat.
Both Babel and Biutiful are complex, emotionally wrenching, visually breathtaking films that stand up to viewing again and again, just like Iñárritu's preceding two films, Amores Perros (screening Sunday, March 31 at 12:05am on SBS ONE) and 21 Grams.
The four of them have together attracted more than 200 critical acknowledgements including 12 Academy Award nominations, plus Iñárritu won best director in 2000 at the Tokyo Film Festival with Amores Perros and in 2007 at Cannes with Babel.
But as his fifth film, Birdman, inches closer to production I'm feeling a similar nervousness as I did before cameras rolled on Biutiful: What if the final result demands that I reconsider his status as a god of filmmaking?
My fears during the lead-up to Biutiful were due to it being the first time Iñárritu had gone into production on a script not written by Guillermo Arriaga. This followed a bust up around the time of Babel, during which Arriaga had written an open letter accusing Iñárritu of having “an unjustified obsession with claiming the sole authorship of a film”. The director bit back and even the Cannes organisers got involved.
The nervousness around Birdman is around tone and subject, not the capability of the scriptwriting team – after all, Iñárritu has again worked with his Biutiful collaborators Nicolás Giacobone and Armando Bo, as well as with one other, Alexander Dinelaris.
Iñárritu's films have all been dramas that are distinctive because of their intensity; this one is comedic drama. Surely it will involve a different set of skills, a different sensibility. Can he pull it off?
Also, this film is set on Broadway and part of me despairs when filmmakers decide to turn the spotlight on the world of the arts because it reeks of navel gazing, although I acknowledge that this is a very personal bias.
Hopefully, the nervousness around Birdman will be as misplaced as it was with Biutiful. Time will tell.
Sunday 6 June, 1:05am on SBS (streaming after broadcast at SBS On Demand)