Eureka Entertainment // 1966 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // July 26th, 2012
An off-beat comedy about serious matters.
Regardless of how open-minded I might be, it's a sad fact that some films just aren't for me, as is the case with Pier Paolo Pasolini's Hawks and Sparrows (Uccellacci e uccellini). From its piecemeal narrative to heavy handed political commentary, this odd little fable left me cold.
A father and son (Toto and Ninetto Davoli) walking along a quiet road come across a talking Crow. After enquiring about where the two men are headed, the Crow begins to tell them the story of two Franciscan monks, Ciccillo and Ninetto, who were tasked by St. Francis to spread the word of God to the hawks and sparrows. Following the story, the Crow accompanies Toto and Ninetto on the rest of their journey, as they encounter violent landowners, a destitute family, a troupe of traveling actors, and a convention of Danteist dentists.
I'll readily admit that post-neorealism and Italian politics are not at the forefront of my interests, and so, perhaps inevitably, I found little connection to Hawks and Sparrows. Though I can appreciate the artistry Pasolini (not to mention cinematographers Mario Bernado and Tonino Delli Colli) exhibit, I cannot possibly recommend the film, though I appreciate many will lap it up, especially as Pasolini proclaimed Hawks and Sparrows to be his favorite of all his films.
The structure of the film is simple enough, with Toto and Ninetto's encountering a succession of eccentric characters along their journey. The main problem I have with the film is that these encounters are so random that there is no flow to them. Secondly they are full of energy sapping philosophizing and humor that is delivered with all the subtlety of a steel toe-capped boot. Leading man Toto does his utmost to bring a touch of humanity to proceedings, with a performance that brings a little much needed subtlety. His interactions with Ninetto Davoli prove to be one of the film's major plus points, in particular during the Franciscan monks segment of the movie. For all his efforts (which include Benny Hill-style skits), Hawks and Sparrows still proved a chore to sit through; the fact that both Toto and Ninetto also soon tire of the Crow's musings doesn't make them any more palatable.
Visually at least, Hawks and Sparrows (Region 2) is a success. The frequently deserted road that Toto and his son travel is framed by beautiful countryside, and, in one of the most memorable scenes, the sight of the city skyline in the middle distance. Pasolini also delivers a memorable sequence with the funeral of Italian Communist Party leader, Palmiro Togliatti. One of Hawks and Sparrows most novel touches is the way the opening credits are sung over Ennio Morricone's playful score.
Eureka's DVD release sports a new HD transfer. The standard definition 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen black-and-white image looks excellent, with good levels of detail complementing the sharp image. The Dolby 2.0 Mono Italian audio is clear, though it lacks range. No extras were included on the screener sent for review, except for a trailer.
Though lacking Eureka's usual fine selection of extras, Hawks and Sparrows still treats fans to a fine presentation of the film.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eureka Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Italian)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated