Eureka Entertainment’s Masters of Cinema series has so far released four pictures by Pier Paolo Pasolini this year with a fifth one – actually the anthology RoGoPaG – on the way (August 27th). The debut, Accattone, and the reactionary but superb Gospel According to Matthew have given way to the later period, which is much offers more difficult concepts and ideas to get to grips with. Pasolini is laying down the gaunlet and challenge that cinema can be a medium to express more than entertainment. Along with Pigsty, MOC are re-releasing Uccellacci e uccellini (The Hawks and the Sparrows), a film described by its director as a “comic film about ideology”.
Pasolini cast Antonio De Curtis (known by his on-screen moniker Totò), quite possibly Italy’s most famous comic actor. The mixture of early screen comedians Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton is most apparent in Totò’s look and sad-eyed stare.
The Hawks and the Sparrows begins well clearly evoking the ghosts of neo-realism’s past. The credit sequence itself is very amusing with the titles read out by singer Domenico Modugno and all made to rhyme. When it gets to Pasolini, the singer informs us the filmmaker is taking a great risk with this picture as it could well ruin his reputation. That’s really as funny as it gets. Pasolini sets up the movie as a folk tale with pointed comments on the political and cultural landscape of Italy in the mid 1960s. But what to make of inter-titles such as “For the benefit of those who were not paying attention or are in doubt, we remind that the Crow is a – to so call it left-wing intellectual of the kind of those living before Palmiro Togliatti’s death”? What once was radical counter-cinema gestures feels incredibly dated. The rest of the picture goes on in this whimsical but unappealing fashion.
How’s the picture and sound?
The DVD transfer and sound is adequate. Sharp in some places and less so in others. You can choose to watch the film in dubbed Italian without subtitles.
As with the Pigsty release, the extras amount to a theatrical trailer and the always-brilliant booklets. There is a great article by Paquale Iannone on the ideas and themes behind Pasolini’s 1996 comic picture along with interview extracts from the director himself. As with all the Masters of Cinema booklets this is must-read material.
Pasolini’s 1966 film is an intriguing sort of mess. The director has some highly interesting themes at work on the death of neo-realism, the trouble with ideology and the pervasive influence of religion in Italy but feels made up of concepts first and movie second. The Hawks and the Sparrows begins well enough then becomes overbearing. It’s also not very funny yet supposed to be a ‘comic’ picture. Pasolini’s idea of what constitutes as amusing was certainly unique.
Extra Features Rating:
When’s it out?
Monday 23rd July