Bird People

An overstressed American businessman and a French chambermaid make a connection at an airport hotel in Paris.


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  • ★★★★ review by Jonathan White on Letterboxd

    TIFF 2014 Film #7

    Reason for pick : hit at Cannes

    Throughout this TIFF I’ve been trying to log and declare my rating immediately after seeing a film. Bird People was an exception. If I was to have put my feelings to page immediately following, I’m pretty sure I would have pronounced it an ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful cinematic experiment. Now, with the passage of time, it has stayed with me in a way that only those special films do.

    There is so little to Pascale Ferran’s story that to say anything would be to reveal all, and part of the charm is working your mind around its simple premise. As far as interpretation, there is plenty of room, and this is what Ferran affords you. For me, it’s about change. Not the concept of change, but rather the moment of change. A decision made; a line crossed.

    I have echoes of its 127 minute runtime seeming bloated, but not uncomfortably so. Essentially a two part film, the first is filled with dialogue, and the second filled with wonder. Now, looking back, I think it had the right measure of each.

    I have a feeling that Bird People is going to stay with me a while.

  • ★★★½ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd

    have fun selling people on this without ruining it in the process.

    amongst other things, this is exhibit A in the argument that the *best* special FX ≠ the *most* special FX. magical stuff.

    not sure Cannes was the right launching pad for this... the bifurcated structure may have been something of a mistake, and i think Ferran overplays the tedium of the first half in an effort to accentuate the second, but this is ultimately a simple, wondrous bit of storytelling. comings and goings... the quest for freedom in a world where everywhere is nowhere. dig it. and beware spoilers.

  • ★★★★ review by Arsaib Gilbert on Letterboxd


    Apparently, Birdman wasn’t the only avian-themed narrative film of 2014. Directed by Pascale Ferran, best known in these parts for Lady Chatterley (2006), Bird People is an alternately mundane and magical tale of isolation and longing that ultimately wins out due to its sheer conceptual audacity; I don’t remember the last time I saw a “major” European art film so unafraid of falling flat on its face (pun intended).

    Set almost entirely at a hotel adjacent to Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport, the movie's odd bifurcated structure first introduces us to a well-traveled American business (Josh Charles) who experiences a mid-life crisis during his stay before moving on to a wistful French hotel maid (Anaïs Demoustier) who similarly wants to transform herself.

    Ferran intelligently thwarts narrative conventions and expectations— despite featuring a similar enough scenario, this doesn’t turn into a Parisian Lost in Translation (2003)—and, as she also did in her surprising D. H. Lawrence adaptation, shows an innate gift for capturing the intricacies of human behavior. An eccentric and charming confection.

  • ★★★★ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd


    A.V. Club review. Identical reaction on second viewing: Adore the prologue; love 'Gary' (including/especially the epic Skype call); love 'Audrey' (apart from the big cringe during "Space Oddity"); absolutely detest the last 30 seconds. Not a dealbreaker, but close.

  • ★★★★ review by Tasha Robinson on Letterboxd

    Really loved this strange, surreal movie that splits time between two people: an American businessman visiting France and deciding to quit his job and abandon his wife and kids in order to find himself, and a hotel maid who similarly abandons her responsibilities and finds freedom via a different method when she spontaneously becomes a sparrow. There's a heavy dose of WTF magical realism here, and it doesn't entirely integrate the two stories. But both segments are well-realized, and Audrey's story is so charming and thrilling—and in retrospect, such a rebuke of Gary's choices—that it won me over pretty completely. A heavy dose of CGI had to be used to make sparrow-Audrey operate believably, but it's so seamless that it makes the effect disappear and become a form of naturalism. And seeing the world from her bird's-eye view doesn't get old. There's a tiny bit of Amelie in all this, but Bird People is more down-to-earth in a way that grounds the whimsy.

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