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USA 1988
Directed by
Clint Eastwood
161 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Bird is a creditable, well-researched biopic about legendary jazz saxophonist, and self-destructive musical genius, Charlie "Bird" Parker. Non-music buffs may find it somewhat long at 161 minutes but Forrest Whittaker does a good job as Parker, particularly in the on-stage sequences, the re-creation of the musical context for Parker's music is good and there's an excellent soundtrack (Parker's original music was re-recorded for the film which won an Oscar for sound recording).

As a director Eastwood has a strong, slightly conflictual tendency in general to narrativize his subject matter in a traditional form whilst striving for novel perspectives. The result here is to concentrate on visual style rather than dramatic grit and we get little sense of what drove Parker, assuming that anyone can answer this kind of question.

For those interested, Bertrand Tavernier's comparable 'Round Midnight which co-incidentally came out the previous year is a less Hollywoodized rendition of similar subject matter, although one that had the benefit of a real musician, Dexter Gordon (a contemporary of Parker and fellow junkie) pretty much playing himself.




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