THE HAWKS AND THE SPARROWS, a wild comic fable, stars the beloved stone faced clown Toto as an Italian everyman, and Ninetto Davoli as his good natured but empty headed son. Pasolini uses a comic crow, which philosophizes... more » amusingly and pointedly about the passing scene, as a counterpoint to the performers, representing humanity, as they progress down the road of life. Pasolini presents a tragic fable which shows two delightful innocents caught, like many Italians, between the Church and Marxism.« less
"Although I find Pasolini a brilliant, provocative, and at times sublime filmmaker, I have a hard time connecting with The Hawks and the Sparrows. Of course, some viewers are passionately devoted to it and, like all of Pasolini's films, it is definitely worth seeing. It's an episodic tale of a dotty father (legendary Italian comedian Totò), his rambunctious teenage son (Ninetto Davoli, who appeared in 11 of Pasolini's films and was his lover), and a talking crow (with a passion for alluding to Marx, Brecht, and Mao) who become involved in a series of comic misadventures. Some of the film is very funny, and it works well visually and musically (score by the great Ennio Morricone), but overall it feels at once ponderous yet underdeveloped. Pasolini had set out to make an ideological comedy but, as he remarked in a 1968 interview, "perhaps it came out too 'ideo-' and not 'comic' enough." Exactly!Some of the most effective elements derive from Pasolini's love of early comedy. The first shot, with Totò and son walking along an endless dusty road, seems to pick up where Chaplin's Modern Times (1936) left off. Totò's stony yet expressive, and hilarious, face brings to mind both Buster Keaton and, surreally, a bird (with a title like this, that means something). Ninetto Davoli is a perfect foil. He is all laughter and devil-may-care hijinks, injecting the film - often set in one form of wasteland or another - with the spirit of youth although, significantly, it is not a spirit of rebellion but more a last burst of steam being let off before following, literally and otherwise, in his father's footsteps. One of the most energetic scenes comes at the beginning, when Ninetto joins a group of teenage boys practicing a line dance to a sassy pop tune. Despite the vitality of this musical number, it shows that he is all too eager to conform his own energy to the group. In Pasolini, as in life, almost everything has multiple, and sometimes paradoxical, meanings.The film provides ample, if often contrived, opportunities for comedy, but it is often of a violent kind, both emotionally and physically, and reminds us of Theatre of the Absurd. Playwrights like Beckett, Ionesco, and Genet clearly provided Pasolini with a philosophical blueprint for this picture, with their Existential vision of the harsh ridiculousness of life, as well as their subversive style (including illogical, even fantastical plots) that undercuts both dramatic form and the assumptions of their audience. Absurdly, the form of Totò and son's journey - like the structure of the film itself - is a giant loop, as they travel around and around Rome's periphery; always moving but never really getting anywhere. The symbolism is both obvious yet vague.With Pasolini's encyclopedic knowledge of history and all the arts, the film could also be seen as his unique take on a favorite poet (Pasolini was himself called the greatest postwar Italian poet). Note the central episode at the grotesque, and Felliniesque, Conference of Dentists for Dante. The misadventures of Totò and son could be Pasolini's update of sections from the Divine Comedy's Inferno and especially Purgatorio sections. The omnipresent road in this film lies between two areas, Rome and the countryside, as Purgatory lies between hell and heaven. Like the damned souls in hell, and some of the luckier ones in Purgatory (where so many of the world's great, but not purely-Christian-enough, artists hang out, including Giotto - whom Pasolini played in his film of The Decameron), father and son walk in circles. If they never learn from their mistakes, they'll remain in a Hell of repetitive alienation; but if they do, and can "Purge" themselves of their ignorant and sinful ways (Pasolini's conception of "sin" is more sociopolitical than spiritual), then maybe they can finally catch one of those buses which they're always missing and get out of wherever they are.The central symbol is, of course, the one in the title, which Pasolini dramatizes in a lengthy film-within-the-film set in the middle ages. But what are we to make of the hawks and the sparrows? The title suggests a kind of symbiotic relationship between predator and prey, even as it symbolizes the two great tendencies within Italian culture and, to a lesser degree, within Pasolini himself: Catholicism and Marxism, and the violence which can result when they clash. But which group do the hawks represent, and which the sparrows? Pasolini keeps the ambiguity coming, as he shows how each group contains elements of both victimizer and victim. Paralleling that, we see father and son in a similarly fraught dual role: They victimize the poor woman when trying to collect her rent, and are in turn victimized by their boss, the landlord. That vicious circle connects not only with all of the circular/repetitive elements in this film, but with most of Pasolini's works, beginning with the beguiling victimizer/victim Accattone in his first film.But Pasolini needed to flesh out his ideas, to embody them in living, breathing people. Then the comedy might have been funnier, the film might have had a more visceral impact, making its intriguing political and philosophical points more meaningful. Despite my personal reservations (which are certainly not shared by all of Pasolini's admirers), I hope that you will watch this picture and see what you think.[3-1/2 stars rounded up to 4]"
Good film, rubbish dvd
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Scott Richardson (above) writes that this is one of Waterbearer's better quality DVDs. In which case I certainly won't be buying any of their others!
It is a shame such a low quality product should represent the work of such a great director. Let's hope somebody brings out a remastered version, restored to full length, with chapter stops (how much effort would it take to put them in!) and removable digital subtitles. And it would be nice to hear that Morricone soundtrack clearly.
Come on Waterbearer, try a bit harder."
J. Clark | 05/29/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Pasolini's most concise film, perfectly blended humour, religiosity, scandal, and philosophy. enumerates the director's problems with contemporary life in a nutshell; ninetto davoli is adorable!"
An Unusual Film From Pasolini.
Rayv | Noho, Ma | 08/03/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I picked up this Pasolini film a few days back, and I must say it was something a bit incongruous for Pasolini to make. The film takes place in a barren farmland, where a boy and his father meet a talking crow. Thereupon, the film shifts to a local monastery where we see the boy and father as monks. Inch by inch, they have the ability to talk to birds (i.e. chirping and whistling) as well as communicating with them. However, these birds (sparrows) are suddenly being killed off by the Hawks, and the rest is history. Although appearing dull at first, the movie soon gathers interest after the interaction with the crow, but abruptly finishes on a demented yet humorous note. Not as graphic as his later film would be, even so there's a sick sense of style idiosyncratic to Pasolini; although "The Hawks and the sparrows" still seems a bit weird, as if part of the school of Surrealism. I've heard Pasolini made this film as an allegory for his personal eroticism, or an across-the-board motif for homosexuality. If that were the case, it's a very imperceptible one that is obscured by the film's visual aesthetics altogether. Nevertheless, it's worth a look, and most hardcore Pasolini fans would understand it for its existence and beauty."
Mediocre DVD, decent film
Scott Richardson | Chicago, IL USA | 08/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Hawks and the Sparrows" is one of Pasolini's more overtly political films. It revolves (more or less) around the conflict between Marxism and Catholicism.Not one of Pasolini's better films (although not a bad film by any means), this is, ironically, one of Waterbearer's better DVD's. Although it still suffers from no chapter stops and burned-in subtitles (some of which are missing), the print is fairly crisp and is very watchable. It is unfortunate, however, that this is the original theatrical version of the film, and not the reconstructed version, which contains an additional 11 minutes. Even if these 11 minutes had been available as a special feature, it would have been nice. The audio on the disc is mostly acceptable, although there is a fair amount of noise during the "Dante's Dentist" sequence.While this disc has some flaws, it is certainly a step up from most of the rest of the Waterbearer Pasolini DVD's..."