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Hawks and Sparrows / Pigsty (Blu-ray Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000173136
Added by: Stuart McLean
Added on: 13/3/2016 17:23
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    Review for Hawks and Sparrows / Pigsty

    7 / 10

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    You never quite know what to expect from a Pasolini film. He was ever a law unto himself, an active and outspoken communist and often controversial (never more so than in his final film, Salo) and frequently surreal and dreamlike.

    Eureka have put out two of his lesser known offerings on a single Blu-Ray disc; ‘Pigsty’ and ‘Hawks and Sparrows’, two very different offerings. Different from each other and, frankly, different from just about anything else on God’s earth.

    Hawks and Sparrows

    ‘Hawks and Sparrows’ is an amazing film. You need to switch off your phone, forget Facebook and news alerts and emails and really concentrate. Then you can just let its meandering stream of consciousness wash over you as I’m sure Pasolini intended. Despite some serious and highly philosophical, almost existential elements, it’s also a film filled with pathos and laugh-aloud humour.

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    Featuring Italy’s answer to Chaplin and Marcel Marceau combined, Totò is seen on a kind of journey through the Italian countryside just outside Rome. He and his son (the effervescent Pasolini favourite, Ninetto Davoli) encounter all sorts of oddities as they roam – including an irritating left-wing crow, a young hooker and plenty of other passers-by.

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    The film also moves in and out of historic fantasy, including a lengthy religious critique set in the thirteenth century which sees the pair trying to convert birds (the feathered kind) to Christianity, after being ordered to do so by Francis of Assisi.

    It takes ages but the incredibly patient Friar, Cicillo, (Toto) eventually realises that hawks communicate less by ‘speaking or singing’ and more by hopping. Once he learns to talk to them, it’s not long before he has them convinced that Christianity is the way to go. The hawks then fly off and kill a sparrow - and so the film goes.

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    You really need to see the film to make any kind of sense of it at all, but whatever the case, you’ll love Toto’s incredible performance as well as the impressive black and white cinematography and the excellent score from a young Ennio Morricone.

    Despite putting two films on to a single Blu-Ray disc, image quality is excellent. Highly recommended.


    Having thoroughly enjoyed ‘Hawks and Sparrows’, ‘Pigsty’ was something of a disappointment to me. A tough, almost unfathomable work which seems to run two stories in parallel. The first is set on a sparse, volcanic landscape (think ‘Planet of the Apes’) either in ancient or future times, showing a single ‘survivor’ living off his own wits, eating anything he can get his hands on to survive – including a snake which is devoured, uncooked, seconds after being killed with a stone.
    We return again and again to this apocalyptic scene, later showing our hero encountering other human life, which he sets about destroying and then devouring in true cannibalistic style.

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    This baffling scenario if intercut with the story of a young man named Julian (Jean-Pierre Léaud) who is the son of the son of a wealthy businessman in post-Nazi Germany. His girlfriend (Anne Wiazemsky) clearly adores him and they spend much time intellectually sparring; she is highly political, determined to join a mass protest taking place, whilst he is happy to abstain. But he’s equally at odds with his (Hitler-like) father’s position too , preferring to take a maddeningly individualistic view where he wonders if the most obvious and sensible course might be to simply cease to exist.

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    The film clearly reflects Pasolini’s own conflicted views though what the significance of the historic cannibalism might be evaded me completely.

    Unfortunately, so did the entertainment value of the film, which I persevered with in full, making a mental note to avoid when I next watch ‘Hawks and Sparrows’ as that is well worth a revisit.
    The disc comes with a limited edition booklet with essays on both films by Pasquale Iannone;, a 1969 interview by Oswald Stack with the director about Hawks and Sparrows; an English translation by Iannone of a 1974 interview with Pasolini discussing the actor Totó; a 1969 note on Pigsty by Pasolini circulated at the Venice première; and an an extract from a 1969 interview by Gian Piero Brunetta with Pasolini.

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    If you’re a fan of Pasolini’s films then you’ll clearly want to add this set to your collection, but even if you’re not, it’s worth picking up to to watch Totó’s exceptional performance in the fascinating ‘Hawks and Sparrows’.

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