Truth and Dare

Donigan Cumming

by Sarah Rooney Volume 1, Issue 3 / July 1997 2 minutes (404 words)

Linoleum floors, toy horses, souvenirs, ash trays, slippers, sagging skin, shriveled hands, truth and dare; CUT THE PARROT is a tragi-comedy with an artist and cast of marginal performers whose guttural monologues take on the characteristics of self-impersonators. Set in a world of dead reflections, the extremes of the unromantic and the harshest of banality, these ‘by-products’ of society unravel the obscene episodes of sex for rent, unclaimed dead bodies, eroded rituals and unrecognizable love stories, revealing a cryptic communication of the human condition.

As choregrapher and narrator of his ‘theatrical play’, director Donigan Cumming opens the scene recounting a visit to the morgue to identify the body of Albert. Then he gives his script to a group of actors who will not be able to remember their lines and whose language is so shredded with educational breakdown that it sounds as distant as that of Shakespeare, remembering that Shakespeare’s adage “All of life is a stage” reverberates throughout CUT THE PARROT . The language, as it is performed, takes on a life of its own. The viewer, alienated from the official stories that are being told, becomes absorbed by the rhythm of the speaking and singing voices. Significantly, as the artist lets go of his models, his passion for them still remains, and reveals a concrete facet of their lives with subtle variations of sound that develop across time.

As actors continue to move from performers to models, the camera gently rests on faces that suggest an intensified reality. Since Cumming handles the camera and much of the film is in close-up, he is often seen reflected in the eyes of the performers. The effect blocks our entry into the organ(eye) that reveals internal character. The viewer is left to survey the topography of epidermal history, taking us on a journey across every burst vain, every inch of sagging flesh, each tuft of hair. The body in its rawness, is packed with a presence of energetic life……every twitch in the skin, every flinch in the eye, tremor in the lip, creates a sense of the characters internal vibration; but as the camera follows the vibration of the body, it picks up the surrounding atmosphere…the body and the space around it becoming one.

In a performance that crosses the paradoxes of its character, Cumming weaves a complex path between theatricality and reality, blurring the boundaries between object/subject, past/present… Memory

Volume 1, Issue 3 / July 1997 Film Reviews canadian cinemacountry_canadadocumentarydonigan cumm