Ferran's Bird People Doesn't Quite Take Flight

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Bird People on DVD Critical Blast

BIRD PEOPLE, directed by Pascale Ferran, is what I call a “boutique” movie: one that will appeal to a select audience, an audience that loves independent, off the beaten path foreign movies filmed outside the realm of traditional Hollywood style; movies that are thick on imagery and symbolism, have periods of no dialog to make you think, subtitles, and in which almost everyone smokes cigarettes.

BIRD PEOPLE centers on Gary Newman (Josh Charles), an American from Silicon Valley U.S.A. in France for business, and Audrey Camuzet (Anais Demoustier), a maid at the Hilton airport hotel Gary is staying at. Gary is burnt out and fed up with everything and, while staying in the hotel, comes to the realization that he’s done with it all and leaves his wife and his job. Audrey it seems is just as tired of the same old life she has too.

The movie depicts this very plainly as we see Gary on his Trans-Atlantic commute to Paris and Audrey doing her cross town commute to the hotel. You can see on their faces they both long for something else, like they want to just fly away. We see them several times staring at the planes on the tarmac and out the window at the sparrows flying about.

The movie is filmed both in English and in French with English subtitles. As you can suppose in English when Gary is speaking to people back in the U.S. and in French most everywhere else.

While the movie’s open gives us a glimpses of both of the main characters, it then separates to tell each character’s story, going as far as to titling the segments as “Gary” and “Audrey,” before ultimately coming back together as a united story at the end.

I like how they depict two totally different people, not only by nationality, but also by culture; one a tech firm wizard from the U.S. with international business that takes him regularly around the world, the other a working class young woman who has been commuting by bus and train to work at the hotel, both having the same desire to do something different.

While filmed well (I like how most of it took place in an airport hotel as opposed to just a hotel in the heart of Paris), I found the story to get tedious at times and the pauses in dialog, even though I know why they were there, were just a little too long and I found my mind disengaging. Also, some of the visually imagery had me thinking way too hard to try and understand what the scene was supposed to be telling me. I had trouble understanding if what I was seeing was something real or a dream; not wanting to give away anything in the movie, there is a part with Audrey where I don’t know if she really is what see appears to be.

Some of the imagery, however, works very well. There is one scene in particular that was brilliantly filmed involving a sparrow and a young artist. The sparrow comes into the artist’s hotel room through his window and is given some crackers to eat. Afterward, the artist motions to the bird to flutter and stand about, and while directing the bird’s actions with the one hand he quickly paints these beautiful images of the bird using his brush and ink wash. The simple strokes he uses to paint the bird show such talent and skill. It was very tastefully done and a treat to watch. This is one scene without any real dialogue that worked exceptionally well.

Once Gary and Audrey’s individual stories are told, events bring them face to face very briefly. After their exchange the movie ends in a very sweet, quiet manner where we are left to ponder what happens next. This actually was my favorite part of the movie -- not because it was the end, but because of the way it was filmed.

I traditionally enjoy independent foreign films and love a good story that makes me think, but BIRD PEOPLE just didn’t have enough moments to keep me fully engaged. It had nothing to do with the actors; their performances were fine. I enjoy a limited cast film where the actors really become the people they portray. It was more on the storytelling end where I found myself wanting more; perhaps more interacting, more definition of what I was supposed to be seeing.

A good movie? Yes. A memorable one? Well, not for me, but it is good to see filmmakers make movies the way they want to make them. From the awards and critical praise this film has won from independent and foreign press, it is apparent that a good many people feel this is a great movie. But for me, while it wasn’t quote “for the birds,” it was just good.

Grade: 
3.0 / 5.0