Monday Movie: Bird People
Every Monday, we’ll recommend a movie. It could be a classic, an overlooked recent treasure, an unfairly maligned personal favorite or whatever the hell we feel like.
Pascale Ferran’s Bird People, a small-scale meditation on the fantasy of escape, may not have as big a marketing push as this year’s other avian-titled film, but is just as essential, adventurous, and exhilarating an experience. After an opening sequence visiting the thoughts of several Parisian commuters, the film is split neatly in two parts, each focused on an individual. The first concerns Gary Newman (Josh Charles), an American software developer making a quick stop in Paris before traveling onto Dubai in a series of meetings about The Next Big Stage. The second half follows Audrey (Anaïs Demoustier), a maid at the hotel at which Gary is staying. She recently dropped out of school and spends her evenings watching her neighbors through her window, like TV in real life. Unlike most Parisian-set French films, Ferran takes the least romantic view of the city possible, placing most of the film’s action within this airport-adjacent Hilton. But that doesn’t mean she’s without a sense of the romantic. She further slices her stories by, at the halfway point in each, giving her protagonists a brief moment of revelation, a chance to live out their desires to run away from it all, as birds do at the change of the seasons. The method each takes reflect their nature. Gary is pragmatic, organized, while perhaps lacking in compassion; Audrey is empathetic, given to day-dreaming, while definitely lacking in self-sufficiency. Both take routes that may depart from reality, Ferran’s roaming camera seemingly unbound by the constraints of human operators. The true escape may yet be of the mind. Ferran peppers her world with other prisoners of modernity – a hotel clerk who sleeps in his car while he’s between apartments, as he’s not yet close enough with his girlfriend to stay with her; Gary’s wife, trapped in a Skype screen; even the people Audrey observes, tucked away in their own private rooms in the dollhouse she perceives. Everyone in their own story, their ornately-imagined image of their life.
Bird People premiered earlier this year at the Cannes International Film Festival, and is now available on VOD platforms through IFC Films.