The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

This review was originally published in the “Critic’s Choice” section of FLM, Winter 2005. It is reproduced here courtesy of FLM Magazine, copyright Landmark Theatres 2005.
wildparrotsBirds in the hand (Photo: Judy Irving, courtesy of Shadow Distribution)

“I always imagine Sophie being this little French girl who loves her big Picasso,” muses Mark Bittner in The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. “You can see her beret, can’t you?” Mark, an old hippie who twice professes not to be an eccentric, selflessly tends the flock to which Sophie and Picasso belong. He leads an earthy, squatter existence (“There’s this milk crate that holds up my refrigerator”) and sports stringy brown hair that has seen neither a barbershop nor a bottle of conditioner in decades.

After an establishing shot of mist-shrouded Golden Gate spires, director Judy Irving zooms in on the bright, sea-green plumage of conure parrots, as they nestle amidst pale cherry blossoms. One bird, facing the camera, holds a pink blossom aloft in its beak, as if for our consideration of such delicate beauty before letting the petals fall.

Comparisons to Winged Migration may be inevitable, though Irving’s focus isn’t to peregrinate, but to spend time with a few parrots, allowing distinct personalities to emerge. (My favorite was Mingus, who bobs his breast in time to the beat of Mark’s folksy guitar pickin’.)

Irving has a great eye, and not only for San Francisco’s obvious visual treasures; she imbues a twilight visit to the North Beach Coin-Op Wash-Dry with a sense of hopeful melancholia, a blend of neon pink and deepening blue sky. Even her composition of laundry tumbling ‘round in a side-load dryer becomes a hypnotic interplay of texture and light. – NPT

October 31, 2004