Bird (1988)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Musical Drama, Showbiz Drama  |   Release Date - Sep 30, 1988 (USA)  |   Run Time - 161 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Brendon Hanley

Apart from being a notorious tough guy, actor/director Clint Eastwood is also a notorious jazz aficionado, and Bird is his sprawling, impressive tribute to one of the great jazz saxophonists of all time, Charlie "Bird" Parker. Parker, one of the originators of bebop, died at an early age due to a long-standing relationship with the high life. Forest Whitaker, who won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival for this role, does an excellent job of capturing the larger-than-life, ultimately destructive man whom many credit for inventing "cool." The film follows Whitaker's somber example, eluding explanations or historical documentation. Though Eastwood has made some very fine movies as a director, Bird is certainly his most accomplished and mature visually. He pulls out techniques that one might not have suspected he had. He also breaks away from the straightforward narrative style of his mentors, Don Siegel and Sergio Leone. Eastwood's almost impressionistic memory montage as Bird lays dying is probably the most striking directorial achievement that he has produced. The narrative is a bit too disorganized to deliver the full thematic punch that the movie strives for, but the performances of (Whitaker and Diane Venora as Bird's wife) and the lasting images make it a significant achievement for Eastwood behind the camera.