Monday, December 19, 2005

Enchantment (Updated)

Photo credit: Daniela Cossali

Feeling in need of a pre-Christmas pick-me-up I took myself off to see The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Not a commercial blockbuster - I had to hunt it down in an arthouse cinema - but a gentle labour of love, a documentary on the friendship between a San Francisco resident and one of the flocks of wild parrots that inhabit the city. Since the parrots are not a native species, environmentalists are divided on what the city's attitude should be to them; views range from extermination to capturing and putting them in the zoo to leaving them to fend for themselves - this last stance is favoured by the film's main character since the birds are great survivors. A meditation on the unity of life and right livelihood, the film is also extremely comic in places, thanks mainly to the feathered supporting cast, and has a terrific happy ending (which I won't give away).

For someone like me who has never been to San Francisco and who yearns to go, it was also a chance to begin to plot a walking itinerary in the city. Telegraph Hill looks even better than I had imagined it, with its walkways, flights of steep steps and hidden cottages. Sweeping views of the bay and of Golden Gate bridge appear frequently.

But above all, the central character, Mark Bittner, helps restore faith in the human race. The most touching part of the film for me was the way in which he developed relationships with individuals in the flock, observed their behaviour and personalities (if that word can be used), wept when he had to say goodbye to them, and was unafraid to admit the fact that he loved these birds and that they mattered to him. The quality of open-heartedness I suppose one would call it.

Update: Synchronicity, coincidence, call it what you will. Out walking on my local common on Christmas Day afternoon, less than a week after seeing the film, I came upon a crowd of maybe a dozen adults and children gathered around a large beech tree and staring upwards, some of them pointing. Simultaneously a series of raucous whoops and cackles could be heard from the top of the tree. As I drew closer there was a sudden whirl of vivid green as two parrots took off for an adjoining branch where they settled and looked down, with some curiosity it seemed, on the assembled humans below. The BBC website gives more details of the wild parrots in the London area. I had no idea of their existence until this week.


Blogger rdl said...

This sounds like a great movie. I wonder if is is playing in the states, maybe in Boston, not here in the booonies.

3:53 am  
Blogger MB said...

This film has been recommended to me before, highly, and I haven't seen it yet. Thanks for the reminder.

4:16 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

Rdl: Hi, yes it is a great movie. Even here in London though it is only playing in one very small arthouse cinema. It is a beautiful, meditative documentary and these days I think it's action and special effects that bring in the crowds. The good thing is that they are going to be issuing the film on DVD(see the website). I plan on getting one myself ...

Moose: I will go out on a limb and say that I am sure you will enjoy it!

7:42 pm  
Blogger MB said...

I shall keep my eye out for it, then!

3:43 pm  
Blogger Sonia said...

Thanks Mary for the information about this film and thanks for the great links. Love the parrot's sound and I watched the trailler, too. I am looking forward to see this movie.

5:20 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

I hope you enjoy it Sonia -and if it doesn't reach Brazil, then there's always the DVD ...

8:46 pm  
Blogger Jean said...

I went to see it. Thank you, thank you for putting me on to this, Mary [and for not giving away the happy ending :-)]. Enchantment indeed!!!

3:40 pm  
Blogger leslee said...

I loved that movie. Very sweet and moving. (I used to enjoy watching hawks; now seeing them from the eyes of a parrot, I feel a lot more chill when I see them.) I hope you get to see San Francisco - beautiful city, though very crowded now!

1:14 am  

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