Blu-Ray Review – Hawks and Sparrows / Pigsty

Hawks and Sparrows stars Toto who is not know to most people outside of Italy but he was the huge star in Italy and was sort of the Italian Charlie Chaplin. The film co-stars Pasolini’s collaborator and lover Ninetto Davoli.  The film still has Pasolini’s revolutionary politics but in a slightly more comedic form.

The film’s story is a rather strange crossbred of a fairy tale and mid 60s leftist filmmaking. It’s about these 2 characters who meet a talking Marxist crow. The crow tells them the story of these 2 old Franciscan Monks (naturally played by Ninetto and Toto) and they preach to the Hawks and Sparrows and try to convert them to Christianity. They rest of the film consist of them wandering having episodic adventures which include meeting beautiful girls, getting chased away by angry farmers and dancing teenagers.

The film touches on life, religion, birth, sex, aging and ultimately Death. It’s all done with humour and a touch of almost Monty Python silliness. The talking crow talks almost like thrift store Godard revolutionary speak but the crow symbolises death eventually. The film features a wonderful Ennio Morricone score, which features Domenico Modugno singing the opening credits in an ironic fashion. The score itself is almost reminiscent of the scores he did for Sergio Leone score which is hardly surprising due to the fact it was done around the same time as his scores for Leone.

The film is an extremely enjoyable if somewhat strange piece of Bunuelian esq comedy even though the humour at time is very broad. The film seems to be considered a lesser work of Pasolini’s even though he considered it the only film of his that he wasn’t disappointed with. A knowledge of mid-60s Italian politics may help for some but for a person like me who has little knowledge it stills works as a very enjoyable film.

The next film in the set is Pigsty which consists of 2 concurrent stories. One features a man who is runs around in a timeless barren wasteland and becomes a cannibal. The man joins forces with a thug and ravages the landscape. The other story is about a fascistic tycoon Herr Klotz (who has a Hitler tash) and his son Julian’s interest in developing relationships with pigs more than his left leaning fiancé, the young couple are played by French actors Jean-Pierre Léaud (who most famously portrayed Antoine Doinel in Truffaut’s films) and Anne Wiazemsky (starred in some Godard films and was married Jean-Luc as well).

The film is almost Bunùelian with it’s satire about capitalism, fascism, suggested bestiality and cannibalism. Léaud and Wiazemsky previously starred in Godard’s La Chinoise and the leftist banter between them defiantly has echoes of that film which Pasolini would have certainly been aware of. The completely silent until the last scene story of the man in the timeless wasteland is arguably the more effective story. That segment is all about the extremes humanity can get to which of course Pasolini went back to in his most famous/infamous film Salò. The more conventional story about the young couple and the man’s father is an amusing and ultimately isn’t quite as dark or funny as it could be. However it still works with a nice twist at the very end.

Pigsty is a very interesting film in Pasolini’s cannon. The film that is very much a dry run to deal with the themes he would later in do in Salò like fascism, the abuse of power etc. It works quite well as a surrealist black comedy and an important film in the development of Pasolini.

The two films are available on a new Blu-Ray released as a part of the Masters of Cinema catalogue. The disc is fairly barebones which only trailers for the two films includes. The booklet is a combination of the booklets for the previous DVD editions of the films.

★★★★

Ian Schultz

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