The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
Those who flinch at movies with high hippie and cutesy factors should shy away from this documentary, an earnest, irony-free portrait of sensitive, sometimes-homeless San Franciscan Mark Bittner, who over several years befriended and observed a flock of wild parrots who've adapted to North American urban life in interesting ways. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill has a lot of strikes against it: production values reminiscent of early-'80s public television, distasteful applications of freeze frames and slow motion, soulless guitar music in a sub-Mark Knopfler vein, annoying insertions by director Judy Irving of herself, and a related "twist" ending telegraphed from miles away. However, these parrots--from elderly loner Connor to finicky music lover and exquisite dancer Mingus--are admittedly damn interesting. And the film's construction has one major strength: As Bittner makes observations about the parrot's personalities or behavior that seem to border on absurd anthropomorphism, Irving couples his dialogue with footage that convincingly corroborates his claims. Just as one can sometimes learn a lot about English grammar by studying a foreign language, one may walk away with some insight into human beings from Bittner's feathered mates.