So begins the dialogue of Pasolini's Uccellacci E Uccellini as our two protagonists, a father [Toto] and his son [Davoli] come walking down the road. A road they are still negotiating at the end of the film and as with life, for which the road is an obvious metaphor, they experience many and various highs and lows. Along the way they perceive the human condition through the prism of Pasolini's idiosyncratic eye.
Ostensibly, this is Pasolini as comic film maker and in spite of he himself having stated that it wasn't that funny I find it continually amusing and sometimes hilarious. But it's not long before the politics become apparent. Throughout, he deploys a wide variety of pictorial and musical techniques, from accelerated action and slapstick, to asymmetrical framing and the inclusion of documentary footage, but most fabulous of all is the glorious sung title sequence by Ennio Morricone.
I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say the protagonists are accosted by a talking crow who then accompanies them on their journey. It is the crow who introduces the mediaeval story within the story, that is the Hawks and Sparrows episode. Through the talking crow Pasolini expresses his ideological discourse which in my naive appraisal I would reduce to 'the big fish eat the little fish'. This consumption is represented to the extreme in the visceral Pigsty simultaneously released by MoC.
It will no doubt be a matter of personal preference whether you consider this film to be a successful amalgam of disparate elements or something of a bemusing mishmash of ideas. I find it very satisfying and I think the least that could be said about it is that it is a film of small and wonderful fleeting details, some comic and some profound.
As to why it is released on DVD and not BD I can not say. Other than one or two shots that are clearly less than perfect, the majority of the material looks very good indeed but it may be that there would have been no significant advantage in having it on BD even though the source is a new HD master. I'm just glad to have the film available in such a fine package. I offer five stars to compensate for the three stars given by someone who hasn't even seen it.
Extras: only another excellent MoC booklet and the original Italian trailer.
The usual Pier Paolo Pasolini stuff about the tensions between the Roman Catholic Church, personal morality and Communism. The Chaplinesque Totò is master of ceremonies as he presents the allegorical fable of a Franciscan brother who can talk to the birds – particularly the hawks and the sparrows of the title.
In true biblical style, this presents its idea via parable rather than by creating convincing characters and a realistic social milieu. The picaresque road movie plotting means many bizarre characters are met along the way but the inclusion of a Marxism spouting crow adds little to the proceedings which end up as little more than an amusing diversion.
While I'm very happy both Hawks and sparrows and Pigsty are being brought out by Masters of Cinema whose releases I'm sure will be far superior to the earlier DVD versions, I must confess being more than a trifle disappointed that these are not getting the Blu Ray treatment some of the Pasolini films are getting. I wonder what the reason is.