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"Uccellacci e Uccellini" is probably the best chance to get acquainted
with Pasolini's political thoughts pre-1968 other than reading him.
It's a candid, allegoric and provocative attempt to express his ideas
about a very specific epoch in Italian history, after the death of
left-wing political "father" Palmiro Togliatti in 1964 (whose funeral
is one of the great scenes of "Uccellacci") and the "death" of
Neo-Realism. It also reflects the intense differences between social
classes, intellectual trends and political forces that would lead to
the acts of "contestazione generale" in the late 1960s.
WIth "Uccellacci", we can learn some of Pasolini's thoughts on Marxism, Fascism, religion, the Catholic church, the role of intellectuals, the bourgeoisie, political parties, the dire conditions of the campesinato and the borgate (slums), poverty, greed, famine, cultural and social apartheid -- you name it. That's the main problem with this passionately personal and visually stunning walking-road-movie: too many targets, too little time to hit them all in the bull's eye.
A natural follow-up to his documentary "Comizi d'Amore" (1965) -- in which he traveled all over Italy interviewing people about their thoughts on love and sex -- Pasolini shows in "Uccellacci e Uccellini" the unofficial apartheid in Italy, a basically "unmelting" pot of dozens of different ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds "artificially" unified in mid-19th century but still plagued by social/economical/cultural chasm. And he also denounces the sterility of the discourse of the "official-left" intelligentsia, which he clearly despised (and which heavily attacked him on many issues and occasions).
In the Italy of the 1960s, the Left was concerned with the struggle of workers, intellectuals and students against the establishment; the contadini (peasants) weren't even properly considered as a political force -- they were the symbol of archaic, pre-boom Italy. Pasolini was the main voice to take the side of the peasants; against famine, sophism falls flat, as the intellectual crow will shockingly discover at the end of "Uccellacci". The political discourse can no longer be theoretical; it has to be urgent, pragmatic, directed towards action. Godard, Bertolucci, Alea, Ruy Guerra, Resnais and others also approached the theme at the time; but, unlike the majority of intellectual-filmmakers of the 60s, Pasolini ACTUALLY had had a rural (though highly literate) background.
Wildly (in)famous at the time as poet/filmmaker/writer/anti-Vatican political activist (but, contrary to a false general belief, he was never a gay militant, though he certainly wasn't in the closet), Pasolini picks up the journey into the "Italia profonda" from Visconti's "Ossessione" and "La Terra Trema" to most of Rossellini and leaves his own distinctive signature in the very complex era of the economic boom.
Pasolini smartly uses the parable genre with much comic relief so he can talk about serious political issues in a "commercial" film, relying heavily on veteran champion Totò's immense talent, charisma and experience. In one of his last films, Totò is joined by 16 year-old newcomer Ninetto Davoli, here in a completely relaxed, natural performance; they make a perfect duo. The cinematography by master Tonino delli Colli features jaw- dropping locations and compositions. The music by Ennio Morricone is memorable, his very personal touch instantly recognizable; and there are funny sung (!) opening credits. There are two minor letdowns that prevent total audience adhesion: 1) it lacks a brighter tempo, the rhythm falters at times; 2) the episodes are rather loosely linked 3) there are episodes which might be shorter (the wonderful but overlong St. Francis story) and others might be longer (the visit to the rich landowner's house).
"Uccellacci e Uccellinni" is a very personal Pasolini ("my favorite" he said in a 1969 interview) and one of his few films not based on literature classics, mythology or the Bible. It's mandatory for all interested in Pasolini's work and/or the political issues of the 1960s, as well as for fans of the unforgettable, one and only Totò.
"Uccellacci e uccellini" aka "The Hawks and the Sparrows" (1964) -
directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
This is a movie that begins like no other introducing the cast and the crew in the manner that is charming, original, melodious and promising of even better things to follow. The fun begins actually with its Italian title, "Uccellacci e uccellini". I don't know about you but the sound of the title simply makes me smile, it sounds like the birds themselves whispered or chirped it to the Pasolini's ear. It is possible to make a satirical philosophical fable concerned with the serious and even grave matters as religion, social and political systems and the order of things and at the same time highly enjoyable, often hilarious, sometimes sorrowful, always original, in one word -Pasolinesque. "Uccellacci e uccellini" talks about desires, death, the meaning of life, Christianity, and Marxism but first and foremost, it entertains. It is about a father (Italian clown Toto) and his young and naive son (Nino Davoli) whom Pasolini sends to the endless cyclical journey on the road of life where they soon will be joined by a talking crow, will be catapulted 750 years back in time and by the request of ST.Francis, they would become two saints (Toto with his clown's face makes a great saint) who would teach the birds (the hawks and the sparrows) the word of God, in the birds' language, of course. The birds seem to agree and accept the words of love but as we know the love comes and goes but everyone (including birds) has to eat and the hunger does not help to improve the understanding between the hawks and the sparrows and between the humans and the crows, even the talking crows. Some were born to kill and to eat the others and there is not much could be changed about it. Two men will be magically returned back to the present time, will go to funeral, will see the baby born, will meet a beautiful desirable girl named Luna who reminds them how divine the fresh hay smells and how much fun it is to make love in it... Their journey would end where it began and on and on and on they go around the world in circles turning. As for the talking crows, "Takers and fakers and talkers won't tell you. Teachers and preachers will just buy and sell you. When no one can tempt you with heaven or hell- You'll be a lucky man!"
How I love a film that taps into the absurd while staying true to the
symbolism, and in the process mocking it and then creating symbolism
again. It's a very tricky thing- Bunuel was one of the masters at it-
and Pier Paolo Pasolini, in one of his rare outright comedies, does
just that. The Hawks and the Sparrows is simple enough to explain, in
its central conceit: an older man (Toto) and a younger man (Ninetto)
are walking along on some not-totally-clear journey (Toto might have
some debts to fix or something, and he has apparently eighteen
children), and they meet a talking crow, who talks and talks a lot.
Then they get into some strange happenings, all comical. But it's the
kind of comedy then that Pasolini uses like some deranged poetic waxing
on about silent comedy and theories on God and faith and love and
politics and, uh, stomach cramps I guess. It's completely off the wall,
at times like a roadrunner cartoon (or, for that matter, the best
Buster Keaton), and it's told with a dedication to the comic situation.
At times it doesn't seem that way though. It could, in less concerted hands, be more scatter-shot, with some scenes working better than others, and with the one sure bet being the crow (voiced by a great Francesco Leonetti). But from the start, Paoslini is completely confident with the material, from the opening titles that are sung (heh), with the throw-away scene with the kids dancing at the restaurant (with an amazing Ennio Morricone rock song that pops in and out of the film), to the sudden inter-titles ala Monty Python ("the crow is a "left-wing intellectual"), and then onward with the little stories within the framework of the 'road movie'. The biggest chunk Pasolini shows us is the story of two monks- also played by Toto and Davoli- who are instructed by their head monk to talk to the hawks and sparrows and teach them about God. And they do, in bird speak (which is also subtitled in case it's needed), and then go through an allegorical tale of the ins and outs of faith.
It takes some wicked subversion to make these scenes work, but they work hilariously, to the point where I laughed almost every minute of the sequence (as well as with other ones, the exception being the archival clips late in the film of the protest marches). Pasolini once said he was "as unbeliever who has a nostalgia for belief", imbues the story of the monks with a sense of charm to it- you like Toto and Davoli in the parts, not even so much that they're good in the roles, which they are very much so, but because there's some bedrock that the satire can spring from so easily. He, via the exceptional Tonino Delli Colli, films the Hawks and the Sparrows as strong in sumptuous black and white as any of his other early-mid 60s films. But there's a lot more going on within the comedy; it's like he skims a line that he could make it as, like with some of his other work (unfortunately ala Teorema) pretentious and annoyingly trite in its intellectual points. But as he goes to lengths to put a spin on it, it turns into pitch-black comedy, revealing him as an even deeper artist because of it.
Take the birth scene, where the weird theater-type troupe who drive around in a car have to pause in their play on "How the Romans Ruined the Earth", and it suddenly becomes a sly farce unto itself. Something that should be sacred is given the air of playfulness, as though everyone is told "yes, it's alright to be in on the joke", where Toto covers Ninetto's eyes, other actors in the group pray, and then walla, there's a baby, clean as day. Morricone's score, I might add, brings a lot to this air of fun and playfulness, even when (and rightfully so) it goes to the more typical strings and orchestral sounds than the rockabilly, which sounds more like unused bits from Pulp Fiction. And finally, there's the crow itself, which unto itself- had Pasolini not made it mockable- would be funny anyway, as it's a frigging talking crow who for some reason follows the men anywhere they go. It's already allegorical of a sort of guide or voice of reason on their journey, which is fine. But including the ending especially, Pasolini allows for the joke to flip over itself.
With the Hawks and the Sparrows, we get the absurd and the surreal, placed wonderfully in social constructs, and it reveals a filmmaker who can, unlike but like his controversial reputation presents, open up a whole other perspective with a strange twist that mixes classic Italian film style and scathing subject matter. A+
How does one describe a film like this? Imagine a Bunuel film like THE
MILKY WAY. A couple of men walking on an empty road. They're on a strange
journey only their destination is the beginning of their journey (huh?) and
the two men are as funny as the best cinema clowns in screen history.
Somewhat Felliniesque, somewhat Chaplinesque, throw in a little De Sica and
even a dash of Monty Python and you can begin to have some idea of what
incredible blend of absurd and hilarious satire is like. Unlike Bunuel's
films, this film is joyous. It has heart, passion, and an imagination
springing somewhere from the soul. The film takes its stabs at religion,
academics, and government but it does it in a playful way that leaves one
feeling rejuevenated instead of that sour feeling that one feels after
watching most social satires. It's hard to believe that this is a Pasolini
film. It's about as far on the spectrum from SALO that one can get, yet
it's sad that in comparison this film is almost completely unknown.
This is definitley worth seeking out on video. I'm hoping that I can find a soundtrack recording for this. It is one of the best Ennio Morricone scores I've heard, which is saying a great deal!
A picaresque approach by a master of the Italian cinema resulted in
this personal and different film by Pier Paolo Pasolini. The director,
who wrote and produced this picture, was in great form in this story
that is more like a fable, deliciously acted by Toto and Ninetto
Davoli, one of the best pairings in Pasolini's movies.
The film is, in many aspects, a road movie. From the beginning, we watch as Toto and Ninetto take to the road in their trip to nowhere, it seems, but a trip which permits Pasolini examine some of the things that obsessed him, mainly his dislike for organized religion, as he perceived it in his country, as it clashed with reality. He takes the life of Saint Francis and the story about his relationship with the birds as the main topic for the movie.
It's hard to add anything else to what already has been said by the valuable contributions to IMDb. This film is one of the most inspired by the director. In it, he doesn't pound on the viewer's head those things that were dear to him. In fact, the film has a whimsical touch as we follow the two travelers, Toto and Ninetto, through rural Italy as a raven keeps telling them stories.
Toto is perfect as the older man who is living in his own world and doesn't see the changes around him. Ninetto Davoli gives a great performance as the happy go lucky son. Their surname, is Innocenti, or Innocent, which in a way, fits their characters rather well.
The black and white cinematography by Mario Bernardo and Tonino Delli Colli works wonders for the film. Ennio Morricone's musical score also enhances all that one sees on the screen. This is a light Passolini, but one that delves deep into the subjects that were so dear to the director's heart.
"Where goes humanity?" - "I don't know!" Maybe it's a comedy, but I
don't think anyone is 100% sure what kind of a film this really is.
It's not really comedic, because behind all those absurdities and
silliness there lies a seriously political and religious concern, a
bittersweet desire and infallible disappointment. Maybe we should take
the film as what it is, as one-of-a-kind, a cinematic high jump which
gives rise to all sorts of speculation and conjectures without knowing
where to start and where it ends.
Not only the viewer is left unsure, the protagonists are, too. They embody the condition of the film's unsureness perfectly, as well as the nature of one of the most unique works of Italian cinema, which is also the most variant and formally abstract film project of Pasolini: A weird story, a picaresque tale which mixes metaphors and cinematic references (from Keaton's statics to Chaplin's poesy of the dusty road to Fellini's clowns to Rossellini's monks); a philosophic apology which depicts the end of ideologies, the crisis of Marxism on the background of the clash of rulers and subjects (hawks and sparrows) and the unfortunate encounter of those who have the blessing of knowledge (the wise raven) and those who outlive themselves without the awareness of being part of this world: Totò and Ninetto, father and son. Both are walking the eternal road of a universe which is merciless, discuss pretentious things and express themselves with the help of their basic instincts: physical needs, but also the hate towards inferiors and subservience to superiors. On their way, they encounter the mystery of life and death (birth of a child, a family that kills themselves with gas, a funeral), as well as the mortal fear of those who starve. Until the raven appears, decides to go along with them and overwhelms them with needless wisdoms.
It's great to see Totò in here, a masterful actor who often was criminally misused in abysmal Italian entertainment movies and shows here the wide range of his talent. The interaction with the young, intuitive Ninetto Davoli is probably the biggest joy in this film.
There are very few things to say about life. There are a million ways
to say it, but we come back to the same few items: living-loving to the
fullest matters, with every force available in your body, being one
with just this world, sensitive to it, alert. We have come up with a
million ways to say it, because it's easier said than done. It is
easier to think than do. And I think that anyone who is passionate
about life and the art he makes has hit this limit, that when all is
said and done, thought is like the buzz of a small mosquito, persistent
but drowned in the swell of universal music.
You have to let go at some point, what the old mystics knew as ecstasy. This is of course near-impossible to accomplish in the grind of life, which is why in the old days, they set apart time for ritual and storytelling - not as distinguishable as they are now, these two. We do so with cinema. And I value, above all else, filmmakers who make more than films, who set apart time for ritual dance that disembodies the self, mends consciousness into the air. Antonioni - Parajanov - Iwai - Herzog - they have all done this at least once.
And even though I'm only getting to know Pasolini, I can tell that that he was a passionate man, a man of thought who wanted to go beyond thought, who wanted to be true to music as it rises from the earth and makes a mockery of our efforts to explain intellectually.
Here is his attempt at a disembodied narrative, characteristically Italian.
The story is that we follow two ordinary rascals on their round through the small world, father and son, both very Italian characters, rowdy, temperamental. In the neorealist mode of some fifteen years ago, there would be a single reality, one of hardship and human ruins, the journey would be one of simple, 'real' encounters, that used to be the conceit in those days, the unmediated presentation of life. Indeed, we start here from a 'realist' world and come back to it full-circle in the end with real footage from the funeral of a prominent member of the Italian Left, signifying the end of the postwar era of new hope.
Inbetween, however, we have something else. There is a second reality that we slowly shift to, one of naked dreams, of ritual and storytelling, song and dance.
Each individual performance is exhilarating. Each has its own air. The rock'n'roll dance - hip and youthful sashaying, 'tuning out'. The Franciscan story - earthy, good-humored religiosity. The lighting up of fireworks - evocative of spontaneous magic and roads. Being shot at from a barn - the silent comedies of Chaplin and Keaton. The scene of giving birth - Italian theater, circus, carnivals.
Our two lovable dunces are not dramatic characters, they do not change. Rather, they are on screen, so that in moving through the world, they will reveal different facets of contradictory existence, all of them exaggerated in the Italian manner. They are in turn victims and oppressors, fools and sages, beggars and hedonists, defiant and obeisant, shifting in and out of iconography and roles, booted from one stage to the next.
Their companion is a talking raven (Pasolini - disembodied from his narrative and made fun of), always spouting thoughts and opinions on religion and politics, which are promptly ignored; who would listen, when there's skirt to be chased?
Being characteristically Italian means that the different threads are not layered together, we simply move from one stage to the next. We get beautiful but scattershot imagination, but it is redeemed by a powerful center. Human nature as the moon that causes the waters to wash out on the shore everything from a deep sea - good or bad. It's a sublime notion.
And you just have to see this for the choreography in the Franciscan story; dissipating human landscape, to human buffoonery on the ground, to swarms of birds rolling in the sky. God as learning to walk in the language of birds. Wonderful.
One delightful saturday afternoon spent with this movie at the portuguese Cinema Museum. This picture can be identified as "another Pasolini movie" or as well as "another Toto movie", and both reasons are more than enough to make anyone curious to see it. Pasolini gives us a pleasant Toto comedie, filled with intelectual and political information, pretty well disguised as a fable about birds and priests. After this, I am convinced that a title with the name PASOLINI on it doesn't necessarily have to be a though, brutal, sexual, 3-hour-lengthed filmic exercise. It can be a simple weekend afternoon movie to watch with your parents or your kids. On the other hand, a simple comedy with one of its masters ("toto") doesnt necessarily have to be shallow and basic. This movie is worth a "jump like a sparrow" into a theatre, whenever you have a re-run around.
Confusing but fascinating motion picture about the experiences of a father
and son. A Felliniesque story with the two main characters experiencing
anything strange or surreal tht comes their way. Maybe influenced from the
work Pasolini did with Fellini on Nights of Cabiria(1957) and La Dolce
Vita(1960). Has many areas in it that is characteristic of a Federico
Fellini film. Even the father reminds me of some characters from a Fellini
picture. The direction is simple as well as subtle. Uccellacci E
Uccellini/Hawks & Sparrows(1965) is Pasolini's lightest and most gentle
picture of his filmography. Light years away from the controversial and
nilistic sections of his later films. An uncharacteristic film for Pier
Paolo Pasolini because of its cheerful and clownish nature. The comedy in
Hawks and Sparrows(1965) is in the tradition of such silent greats as
Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd. Complex film that probably should be seen more
than once to attempt at getting a clear meaning of its allegoric
Hawks and Sparrows(1965) gets some good acting from the leads Toto and Ninetto Davoli. On casting people for Pasolini's film he remarked("I use both actors and non-actors, and I am not interested in their ability. I take them for what they are") with an interesting line. This quote from Pasolini is important in the casting of Hawks and Sparrows(1965) because of his personal perference of non actors over actors. The first film I have seen with the actor Toto. Ninetto Davoli does a decent job for a person who never acted before in his life. The rest of the actors are good in the segments they are in. The director liked using non actors because he wanted a natural and unconscious style that could not be possible with a pro actor. Pier Paolo Pasolini was one of the best and most rare type of movie makers to inhibit is cinema with mostly non actors. Each episode is funny and yet intellegent. Pasolini conveys the character of Toto as someone who is unaware of life around him. Filled with the usual political beliefs Pasolini was into.
The opening credits are creative and very unusual. They are played over the screen in the form of a prose. I only wish that more films would use this kind of opening credits instead of the usual opening credits because its more interesting here. The director's intention was to make a film that was pure prose and in the tradition of Buster Keaton and Charles Chaplin. Hawks and Sparrows(1965) does retain the elements of the tragic comedy with the themes of class and poverty. Ennio Morricone plays one of his best film scores in a non Leone film. Pasolini and Morricone did some good work together as director and film composer. Shows how good Pasolini was at in using simple images to push forward a themematic idea. The bird that follows the father and son represents something that is the total opposite of the two. Visual poetry at its finest and and most beautiful. One scene that has recently resurfaced during the late 1980s was an unreleased episode called "Toto At The Circus".
This is a very good film, I think it's one of the best pasolini movies. It has three diferent parts, and there are lots of hidden things that have an important message. For example, in the beginning there are indications about how distant is Istanbul, or Cuba, and this is a message that the third world is distant, but not so much. The bird that goes with Totó and Ninneto Davoli (they act is excellent) means the racionalism, and they finaly eat it. But the most important thing is that is very funny, specially the part that explains how the two principal carachters have to convince all the birds that there's god and there's a need of peace.
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