Jonathan Livingston Seagull would be aghast at the cutthroat aviary world revealed in Krystian Matysek’s “With Beak and Claw.” Beautifully shot (over three years) docu resembles Disney “True Life Adventures” in that it builds colorful, contrived mini-dramas by cutting together footage shot at different times — though the oft-grisly fights and feedings aren’t nearly cute enough to have passed muster with Uncle Walt. Subfeature length won’t permit pic the wider play accorded concurrent “Winged Migration,” but it’s a fine item for fest, broadcast and educational programmers.
Shot in several Polish national parks, cinematographer Matysek’s first directorial effort builds an intricate sense of the interconnectedness among all things in forest and wetlands — from seasonal weather changes to an old tree’s collapse, from a hawk roaring down on a poor groundhog to cranes’ ritual battles for mating rights and a ravens vs. buzzards scrap over carrion. Lynx, beaver, etc. in addition to numerous bird species are among the “cast” here, and painstakingly attained camera intimacy is aces — as are sometimes breathtaking images. Excerpts of existing orchestral works amplifies melodrama of this satisfying, somewhat old-fashioned nature semi-fiction.