The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2003) movie poster

(2003) dir. Judy Irving
viewed: 05/25/06

This film played in San Francisco for some time and intrigued me. I have always found the flock of wild parrots in the city as one of the city’s amusing characteristics. I’ve seen them flying many times and heard their distinctive jabbering. I didn’t really know how one could make a feature-length film on the subject, but quickly after the movie starts, one realizes that this film is really about Mark Bittner, this semi-loser/classic San Fransiscan, and his relationship with the animals.

Bittner is this guy who is jobless and lived in a little place right by the birds free of rent for several years. He cared for the birds, fed them, named them, studied them. There are interesting aspects of parrot biology offered up, but ultimately this isn’t a nature documentary. It’s really about Bittner. He’s sort of an urban, less insane version of Timothy Treadwell, Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man (2005), although he is not pecked to death in the end of the film.

The film has a sappy ending that sort of makes sense, with the long-haired Bittner (who says that he was growing his hair until he got a girlfriend) cutting off his locks, moving out of Telegraph Hill, and hooking up with Judy Irving, the director who poses herself lightly into the film (until this point). Sorry for the spoiler. I know that you’re upset.

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