The Parrot and the Swan (El loro y el cisne): Rio de Janeiro Review

A witty jeu d'esprit that's sometimes engaging and sometimes exasperating, but never dull.

Ballet, movies and love come together in a sprightly, low-budget docu-feature fusion, which won a special mention at Argentina's Buenos Aires Film Festival.

Nobody could accuse Argentinian Alejo Moguillansky of playing it safe in his fresh, distinctive The Parrot and the Swan. This low-budget homage to three great driving forces -- namely film, ballet and love -- mixes up humor, poignancy and some interesting ideas in a refreshingly unpolished way, its haphazard multiple layers just about held together by the force of its director's personality. Low key and low budget, this follow-up to Moguillansky´s similarly self-referential Castro is scarcely a hidden gem, but festivals should continue to warm to its witty, scattergun approach to showbiz and culture.

The film is framed as a faux documentary about the making of a documentary, which might sound overwrought and self-regarding but which actually works well. Slightly overweight, tubby Parrot (Rodrigo Sanchez Marino – the fact that he’s also the soundman for The Parrot itself gives some indication of the film´s hall-of-mirrors games-playing) is a sound recordist working on a documentary about classical ballet for a well-meaning but clueless American producer alongside a director (Walter Jakob) whose main interest seems to be filming the prettiest ballerinas. Parrot is going through an uncertain breakup from his girlfriend.

A note of humor is introduced with the arrival of the Krapp Group, an alternative dance outfit whose approach makes a sometimes hilarious contrast with the polish of the ballet dancers. Their dancer, Luciana (Luciana Acuna), the swan of the title, starts to flirt with Parrot, who will spend the rest of the film in a maelstrom of post-adolescent insecurity about her. In the second part of the film, they take a break from shooting and the tale becomes a standard if thoughtful indie yarn about twenty-something lovers trying to make it happen.

Parrot is an attractively shambolic figure, but his mumbling passivity starts to pale, particularly when he's playing opposite the sparky Luciana, who is nevertheless inclined to recount her dreams at excessive length.

All this is mixed in with real interviews, one with the renowned choreographer Mario Gallizzi, who explains that all ballet stories are the same: images of Parrot are cut into his explanations, which is just one example of Moguillansky's attempt to pull off some new tricks even on a low budget and at the risk of seeming glib.

The humor at the expense of documentary film making industry's habit of turning suffering into shekels is sledgehammer, but amusing nonetheless: one character is about to shoot a documentary about twin sisters, one of them with cancer and the other without. The magnificence of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Carl Orff is a nicely ironic comment on Parrot's inner turmoil, but a couple of grungy pop songs from the fabulously named Prietto Travels to the Cosmos With Merino also make their presence felt.

Production: El Pampero Cine, Milkwood
Cast: Luciana Acuna, Rodrigo Sanchez Marino, Walter Jakob, Luis Biassotto, Mario Gallizzi
Director, screenwriter, editor: Alejo Moguillansky
Producers: Pablo Ottonello, Leticia Bernaus
Executive producers: Moguillansky, Laura Citarella
Director of photography: Paolo Giron, Fernando Lockett, Soledad Rodriguez, Tebbe Schoening
Production designer: Leticia Bernaus
Music: Tchaikovsky, Carl Orff, Prietto Viaja al Cosmos con Mariano, Fernando Tur,
Gabriel Almendros

Sound: Rodrigo Sanchez Marino
Sales: El Pampero Cine
No rating, 105 minutos