Hawks and Sparrows (1966)

A talking Marxist-leaning crow accompanies an old man and his son as Pasolini fashions a lukewarm comedy with absurdist undertones as it pokes fun at religion, politics and society.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,402

Dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini
1966 | Italy | Drama/Comedy/Fantasy | 89 mins | 1.85:1 | Italian
PG (passed clean)

Cast: Toto, Ninetto Davoli, Femi Benussi
Plot: An old man and his son are walking along the road when they suddenly meet a speaking crow that represents Marxist beliefs. 
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)
Source: Compass Film

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Politics; Marxism; Faith
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

I’m not so sure if I really enjoyed Hawks and Sparrows.  It has a great first half but kinda fizzles out after that.  Apparently, it is Pasolini’s favourite film of his. 

While I feel it doesn’t come close to some of his best films like The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964) or The Decameron (1971), Hawks and Sparrows is at least an interesting one, an experiment of sorts on how comedy can be used to ridicule religion, politics and society. 

The film is borne out of a communistic sensibility, and no other entity captures this best than a talking Marxist-leaning crow, which accompanies an old man and his son as they journey somewhere—home maybe, or perhaps to the edge of the Earth? 

The better half of the film tells the tale (through the crow’s innate storytelling ability) of two monks many, many centuries ago who must speak the language of hawks and sparrows in order to convert them to Christianity. 

“Religion is the power that leads you along a road that no one knows… a road that takes you to that place where all roads meet.”

The monks are played by Toto and Ninetto Davoli (a Pasolini regular) who also play the aforementioned old man and son. 

The film returns to the modern age in the second half, turning it from a compelling medieval tale to a lukewarm comedy with absurdist undertones. 

I can’t say I resonate with or understand fully Pasolini’s intention as the protagonists meet an assortment of characters who might generally be described as outsiders.  Individual segments mostly work, but the big picture feels fuzzy. 

The most memorable part of the film comes in the opening credits, which were sung, arranged and composed by the legendary Ennio Morricone in his first collab with Pasolini. 

Grade: B



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