Review by Sean Boelman
Javier Polo’s documentary The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo is seemingly designed to challenge the audience’s preconceptions, and the result is enormously entertaining. And while the film is manic and disorganized, this overwhelming energy is fitting given the quirky world into which the movie dives.
The film follows a sound designer who, becoming frustrated with the mundanities of his reserved life, embarks on a deep dive into the culture of kitsch and the icons that have come to represent it. The movie aims big, as the topic of kitsch is very expansive and encompasses a lot of ideas involving counterculture at large, but Polo’s wacky approach is mostly effective.
In trying to balance the different sides of this story, Polo weaves a complex narrative that doesn’t always come together. However, as the film moves along, it becomes clear how his journey of self-discovery and his investigation of kitsch overlap, resulting in a lot of very funny and occasionally even some surprisingly resonant moments.
There have been plenty of documentaries exploring different subcultures, and admittedly, this doesn’t add much new in terms of themes. Still, as an ode to self-expression and embracing one’s own weirdness, it’s quite good. And of course, the movie is fittingly idiosyncratic, living up to the unabashed zaniness of the people it depicts.
The film’s subject, Rigo Pex, is developed unusually. There’s obviously a certain level of self-awareness to the movie, as voiceover narration to what seems to be moderately-staged reenactments make up much of the story, but the change that he experiences feels very authentic and moving.
Additionally, the film features interviews with a variety of people involved in kitsch, from collectors who have a passion for the eponymous symbol to famous figures who are known for their work in the movement, like John Waters and Allee Willis. These interviews offer some interesting insight into something that people wouldn’t even think about.
There is a particular vitality to the movie that is quite infectious. The visuals of the film feature some great animation in addition to the brightly-colored cinematography that creates the atmosphere. Additionally, since the movie is so fundamentally tied to sound, it features some really interesting sound design, from sound effects to a gloriously weird soundtrack.
The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo takes an unusual topic and develops it in a way that is satisfyingly unique. On paper, it’s a story that you wouldn’t expect to be particularly cinematic, but director Javier Polo does a great job of making something fascinating.
The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo hits VOD on December 1.