Thursday, March 8, 2007
The Hawks and the Sparrows
Uccellacci e uccellini; fantasy / comedy / drama, Italy, 1966; D: Pier Paolo Pasolini, S: Totò, Ninetto Davioli, Femi Benussi, Rossana Di Rocco, Renato Capogna
Totò and his clumsy son Ninetto are walking on a road. They come to a restaurant where Ninetto joins a few guys dancing outside. Totò spots a crowd of curious people observing a house where an incident happened, while Ninetto talks with a girl dressed as an angel. They continue their journey and meet a talking crow. The crow starts following them and tells a fable; in the story Toto and Ninetto are two monks who were given a special assignment by St. Francis of Assisi to convert hawks and sparrows to Christianity. They succeed, but the hawks attack the sparrows. Back to the real world, Toto and Ninetto continue their journey and go to collect a debt in a poor house. When the crow starts asking further philosophical questions, the two of them get annoyed and eat it.
"The Hawks and the Sparrows" are probably the best film Pier Paolo Pasolini ever made, a fable so weird and so strange that it's even unusual for the weird and strange work of the eccentric filmmaker. This shining movie addresses some serious issues about religion, the meaning of life and the unnoticed intelligence, but the whole tone of the film is so funny and so indestructibly hilarious at times that it seems as if Pasolini was making a cheerful light comedy, with the help of unusual camera angles, dialogues, quirky situations and the directing treatment. From the opening shot of the moon, in which a Narrator is singing the crew members names (!), it's obvious that this isn't a usual fantasy film, and when Toto and his son Ninetto show up walking on the road and talking about her mother's false teeth that she is hiding from grandpa the humorous touch establishes itself and doesn't defer.
Toto and Ninetto are symbols for two average people who are not aware of anything, walking on a long road of life without a goal or an end, while the talking crow represents a left wing intellectual who gets ignored. The whole story is one gigantic, dreamy, felliniesque fable about the urge for communication with the different opinions, and considering Pasolini is a devoted Marxist it's not surprising if there are some subliminal messages about socialism and communism. One of the most hilarious sequences in the entire film is the one in which Toto and Ninetto are playing monks trying to convert sparrows to Christianity; in order to communicate with them, they starts jumping up and down mimicking sparrows, while the birds are shown walking on a building, all the while the subtitles are showing their imaginary dialogues. In this film Pasolini succeeded in showing the deepest, most serious and contemplative messages in the most innocent, childish and funny way, an ability only few can accomplish. Even if the viewers don't get the story, they will certainly get the jokes, which means that this is one of those rare 1 % of "fool-proof" movies in the cinema that work whatever way you look at them.