Clint Eastwood’s 1988 film Bird about jazz legend Charlie “Bird” Parker is one of those “unloved” movies. Well unloved is, perhaps, too harsh. Forgotten or ignored might be better.
It’s not hard to understand why. A film about a brilliant, but hard living and self-destructive jazz musician with a tragic and depressing ending, is not a film one would think of being an audience grabber. It is, admittedly, a tough film to fully get into. It takes time and patience which is something that you’ll especially need a lot of to get through its epic 160 minute length. But it’s a remarkable and compelling film that must be seen.
Shot mainly in dark, somber film noirish tones, Bird takes advantage of necessity. Because of its limited budget, the tight, nearly claustrophobic interiors in the film somehow manage to reflect the sensation of Parker’s entire world closing in on him as he becomes more destructive and angst ridden during his professional and personal downfall. But the film never fails to give ample displays of Parker’s creative brilliance and his powerful charisma and charm.
Needless to say, Forest Whitaker is simply brilliant in the lead role. Though he may not physically look like Parker, there is no one, that one could imagine, who would have been better suited for the role; and he is nothing less than amazing, bringing out all the triumphs and tragic dimensions of Parker’s life to the screen.
Nor should Diane Verona, as Parker’s devoted but long suffering wife Chan, be overlooked as well. She is totally sympathetic and understanding, conveying a person passionately in love with her husband and his immense talent, while slowly coming to devastating realization that she is completely helpless to save him.
Bird, is without question, one of Eastwood’s great achievements. More.of a passion project than just a movie, Warner Bros let Eastwood, who is a well known jazz aficionado and part time jazz pianist himself, made his dream project as a favor for all the box office hits he made for the studio. Made on a remarkably slim $2.5 million budget, the film is so immaculately produced that it looks like a film made for 10 times the amount.
Despite that, the studio really didn’t really push it or give it a wide release, and it never really caught favor with the public. No doubt, the few who saw it, found it too downbeat and grim, but reputation has grown over the years and it does have its fervent admirers.
And the good news is that, finally, Warner Home Video is releasing the film on blu-ray DVD. However there are a few issues.
First of all, It’s not coming out until Dec. 31 2014.
Yes that right. You'll have to wait until the end of year to get it; and there’s one other minor detail too. Warner is only releasing the blu-ray in... France.
Now, that could and might very well change between now and then. But, as of today, Warners is only releasing the blu-ray in France, likely thinking that a film about a black jazz musician would, of course, be of more interest over there than here in this country.
The good news, however, is that it will be an all-region blu-ray DVD, meaning that you won’t need an all-region blu-ray player to play it. Your regular domestic Region 1 blu-ray player will play the disc with no problems.
And if you can’t wait 11 months, the film is also now available in HD to view online through Amazon, though, me being old fashioned, I personally would wait for the DVD.
But whatever method you choose to see it, you must see it, you haven’t before, or just if you want to see it again. It’s film that begs to be discovered and appreciated repeatedly.
Here’s the trailer: