The Netflix Report

Movie reviews from my Netflix queue. Highly personal and opinionated!

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Monday, April 17, 2006

The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill

This is a rarity... an independent documentary that is produced like a real theatrical movie. Excellent production values, camera work, editing, color matching, sound, and so on. No fallback on cheap stock footage to emphasize points. Creator Judy Irving is to be congratulated.

The film is more about human Mark Bittner than it is about the parrots. Bittner is something of a "societal dropout" who decides to begin getting in touch with ecological sensitivity in his own backyard. Luckily, at the time he comes to the philosophy, his back yard is in a beautiful gardened area on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, where a flock of parrots comes to feed. He gradually develops an interest in the parrots, followed by an involvement in their welfare, followed by a feeling of communal relationship.

The film is non-fiction and is almost completely narrated by Bittner. The parrots are not his pets, but he likes to feed them when they come around and he occasionally takes in sick or dying birds to care for them. I found the first 3/4 of the film rather slow and uninvolving. The parrots are colorful and cute in the way that parrots are. The settings in San Francisco photograph well (as always). But there is not a lot of depth or information about the key subjects.

Then near the end, events in Bittner's life create real drama and a sense of emotional honesty and openness that are well communicated. Many "common folk" reviewers reported crying while watching. There are bitter and sweet moments. It's not a great film, but it is a nice examination of a man and his growing connection to other beings. I wish the first part had more content.

Parents note: G-rated all the way. Sometimes bad things happen to good parrots, and children may be upset by the realization. This isn't E.T. and good guys don't come back to life just because they are cute.

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