The Hawks and the Sparrows/ Pigsty | Film reviews, news & interviews
The Hawks and the Sparrows/ Pigsty
Cinema at its most extraordinary, revolting and bizarre in two contrasting Pasolini re-releases
The tone of these two new Pier Paolo Pasolini's re-releases couldn't be more different. The Hawks and the Sparrows stars the Italian prince of laughter Totò and one of Pasolini's most popular Calabrian peasant-actors (and lovers) Ninetto Davoli, and ambles gently through the Italian countryside in a surreal and inventive and Last of the Summer Wine-ish way. Pigsty, on the other hand, is the kind of Pasolini film where, when two boys meet, you have no idea if they're going to fight each other, fuck each other or eat each other. Mostly, they eat each other - and anything else that they can lay their hands on. It's a bizarre shift in his worldview. In 1966 Pasolini is Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Three years later, he's become Francis Bacon.
For this troubled genius, innocent ribaldry and gut-wrenching cruelty were always two sides of the same coin. This is why the Middle Ages are his default setting. And in both films, the need to clarify his position and meaning in striking and sharply defined - and, in the Pigsty, stomach-churning - allegories always takes him to the distant past. This is also where we see Pasolini at his most straightforward in terms of story-telling. While the two contemporary windows through which we view the historical allegories are tricksy and slippery and often lose the viewer, the two history pieces are immediately intelligible and often unforgettable.
This is cinema at its most indelible and extraordinary
Pigsty's trip into a semi-mythical world of cannibal outlaws, who roam the awesome desolation of a black volcanic ridge looking for people to eat and women to fuck while trying to avoid the military sentries who end up catching them, is an astonishing one. This is cinema at its most indelible and extraordinary. The medieval tale in The Hawks and the Sparrows, meanwhile, in which the two monks (Totò and Davoli again) set about converting the birds to Christianity, is surrealism at its most sweet-tempered.
The framing stories are less compelling, though both manage somehow to linger in the mind. Little can be said of Pigsty's stiff, awkward satire on Germany's Wirtschaftswunder, in which the son of a former Nazi is devoured by pigs, except that it's so awkwardly done it becomes pretty fascinating. The rambling, magpie-ish nature of the macro-story in The Hawks, on the other hand - over-scored, it has to be said, by Ennio Morricone - in which father and son meet a gabby, leftwing raven, who they kill and eat for being too boring, appears to mark a unique intellectual union between The Two Ronnies and Samuel Beckett.
Watch the trailer to Pigsty
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Almodóvar's moving portrait of a mother's grief, adapted from Alice Munro
Alex Cox’s account of punk rock’s ill-fated duo takes a ride to the heart of darkness
Charisma battles desolation in moving documentary of Ukraine's lower depths
A reputation's tatters are shredded in convincing detail
Atmospheric debut film inspired by Sartre novella on the nurturing of a fascist
New horror franchise isn't scared enough of the dark
John Schlesinger's seminal British New Wave drama about a couple forced to marry
Reassuringly cosy adaptation of Arthur Ransome's 1930 children's novel
Trouble in paradise for Blake Lively courtesy of a hungry shark
Peerless Slovak Holocaust drama brings comedy into tragic context
Huppert and Depardieu play an accomplished desert two-hander
Ricky Gervais's world-class gargoyle doesn't quite cut it as a tragic figure