The Austin Chronicle

The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo

Not rated, 86 min. Directed by Javier Polo Gandía. Narrated by Camilo García.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Dec. 4, 2020

Flamingos are not pink. Flamingos are only pink because their natural diet turns their feathers pink. They are made into what we, as humans, expect them to be because of their context.

And so it is with The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo, a cultural wade through the ripples left in the wake of the bird with the backwards knees. Or, rather, the idea of the flamingo. Superficially, musician/muscicologist Rigo Pex (better known as Guatemalan electrotopical pioneer Meneo) wanders off on a surrealistic exploration of the human fascination with everyone's favorite long-legged wader with the staring eyes. But Pex is not really interested in flamingos in an Audubon Society way. His fascination is with the fixations of others, of why this awkward, gangly, bad-tempered bird has has become so ubiquitous. It's what binds together transgressive artist Eduardo Casanova, Guinness record-holding collector Cindy Dunlow, and, inévitablement, John Waters.

But what is the mystery of the pink flamingo? Nothing and everything. First time feature documentarian Gandía melds comedic narrative and documentary techniques for a style that's like a more playful version of The Act of Killing, or a less pompous, more self-effacing cousin to Alejandro Jodorowsky's recent Fellini-esque self-mythologizing. Much of that comes down to Meneo, who has the same easy, ingratiating charm that makes Louis Theroux such an intriguingly awkward host. His disarming approach, which may never work in any other context than this, has an absolute formlessness and artlessness which fits the lack of a resolution. Meneo is looking for something (as an encouraging narrator, voiced by García, hopes he finds) but he has no clear idea what it is.

Which is the point. The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo is not about flamingos, but about how people imbue an abstraction with value, which becomes an exploration of kitsch. But then it's not really about kitsch, no matter how many pink knick-knacks are on display. Meneo's quest becomes the purpose, in a ludicrous, adorable, playful story of finding yourself.

And remember: if it doesn't have Don Featherstone's name pressed on the side, it's not a -real- pink flamingo.

The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo is available on VOD now.

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