The Pasolini Project: A Journey Into Pasolini, PART 4: THE HAWKS AND THE SPARROWS

This is The Pasolini Project, a monthly discussion series from Adrianna Gober and Doug Tilley delving into a vast body of work that, until relatively recently, had not been widely available on home video: the films of director, poet, journalist, and philosopher, Pier Paolo Pasolini. We’ll be exploring Pasolini’s filmography in chronological order, taking occasional detours through his staggeringly extensive artistic efforts outside of film, as well as the work of his collaborators and other related media.

For Part Four of our deep dive into all things Pasolini, we’re taking a stroll through Rome with Totò and Ninetto Davoli in 1966’s whimsical The Hawks and the Sparrows. For previous entries in the series, click here.

Caution: the following discussion contains spoilers.

 

While traveling together by foot along the outskirts of Rome, Innocenti Totò and his son, Innocenti Ninetto, encounter a talking crow fluent in Marx and wise-cracking humor. As their conversation deepens, their journey becomes more outlandish, taking us along for the ride, ready or not. Rich with symbolism, with a surrealist bent, The Hawks and the Sparrows is Pasolini’s first outright comedic feature.

 

Doug Tilley: I have to admit, Adrianna, I had difficulty with The Hawks and the Sparrows. I think it left me feeling more ignorant than the other [films] we’ve covered so far.

Adrianna Gober: Yeah. I feel like there was a lot of topical humor and regional references at play, things I had no context for and at times, I had some difficulty making sense of it.

DT:  I think all the Pasolini movies we’ve talked about so far in some way feel very much of their era, but this one, because it’s making specific popular culture references to things that were happening around that time period and specific to Italy, I felt it required a lot more reading after the fact for me to be like, “oh, I see who that person was.” “I see who that funeral footage was supposed to be of.” [laughs]

AG: Yeah, unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of time to do much reading to get context for the film, so I’m probably more in the dark than you are. There’s even an intertitle in the middle of the movie where it says something to the effect of, “let me remind you that this bird represents this very specific leftist intellectual who just died.” I don’t remember the exact wording, but when I saw that, I thought, OK, it’s going to be this sort of movie.

DT: It’s like, thanks movie, you really helped me out! The funeral footage is of a communist leader. I guess he was the leader of the Italian Communist Party, named Togliatti.

AG: Right.

DT: And of course, you know, I think I have a general handle on Pasolini’s Marxism and how he demonstrated that in his own life. But the actual political situation in Italy in the mid-1960s is something I can’t pretend to have an intimate knowledge of.

AG: Yeah, neither can I.

DT: That said, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t find the movie entertaining. I did.  The thematic elements that make up a lot of the movie, it’s not like I couldn’t get a handle on them. I guess I just worried that I was missing out on a lot, but maybe it’s a good idea for me to get used to that, because a lot of the literary allusions that are coming up that are going to be entangled with the political context at the time, I may have a little trouble putting all those together, too.

I mean, it’s going to be fun, that’s part of it. Knowing that Pasolini thought so much of this movie himself, I want to be able to appreciate it on the level that he wanted the audience to appreciate it. And I’m like, oh boy, I don’t know if I was able to do that.

AG: I know I was not able to do that because I’m very lukewarm on this movie, I have to say.

DT: I went to Letterboxd after watching it just to see some of the reviews, and saw people really enthusiastic, and I’m like, you know what? I would never, ever say that they’re wrong or that their feelings are invalid or anything, but I felt a little jealous of their ability to enjoy it that much, especially on a comedic level where I know there were parts of it that I certainly found funny, and then there are kind of long stretches where I see how this is supposed to be funny, but I’m just not finding it very funny.

AG: There was a lot of slapstick, physical comedy, and sped-up chase scenes on foot that I totally imagined “Yakety Sax” playing over.

But whenever there was some comedic momentum building, it would screech to a halt because [Pasolini] would throw in something very sobering or jarring, like the scene at the destitute family’s house right after a very humorous extended chase sequence. Maybe I’m misremembering, but I’m pretty sure it was right after that extended chase scene where they defecate in the bushes.

The landowners are chasing the father and son, and the landowner’s wife is shooting at them and it’s very amusing, and then they go to that house and the family is so poor that the mother has to boil a bird’s nest for dinner and keep her child in bed because if the child gets out of bed, they’re going to want to eat. I’m not sure to what extent we’re supposed to find all of that funny.

DT: I mean, I think we’re supposed to find the absurdity of the mother continually telling the child that it’s nighttime in order to keep them asleep, and the exaggerated element that they’ve been reduced to eating a bird’s nest. I do think there’s supposed to be humor to be gleaned from that, but you’re right, it’s so depressing that it’s like it goes beyond dark humor to be just kind of unpleasant.

AG: Yeah.

DT: I guess we should start talking about how we seem to be back in a transitional period for Pasolini, right? Because The Hawks and the Sparrows, this film, it’s a collection of firsts for us, because it’s the first comedic full-length feature that we’ve watched, at least wholly comedic if you can call it that. I think it’s a comedy at heart. It’s also the first film that we’ve seen that has Ninetto Davoli as a core piece of it, and that will be something that’s going to be a lot more common going forward, and it’s a film that is a little bit more —-  some might disagree with this —- more overtly political, in the regard that some of the characters seem like they’re speaking Pasolini’s words directly.

AG: Yeah, totally. In fact, I had that thought even about its non-political content. There’s a scene where Totò, Ninetto and the Crow are walking along a road and Ninetto introduces himself to the Crow, and the Crow replies, “your innocence, your simplicity and grace are religious,” and I thought, oh boy, Pasolini’s really laying it on thick there, isn’t he? It’s, to me, transparent that Pasolini is relaying his own thoughts about Davoli through the bird, given their relationship. He couldn’t help himself. I thought that was funny.

DT: Absolutely, yeah. And in fact, sometimes the monologues that the Crow speaks feel….at times, I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be so exaggerated because of the constant references to Marxist political thinkers, that if it was meant to be kind of parodic about that kind of thought process, or if it’s just Pasolini saying no, this is what I think. I think in interviews later, Pasolini actually said that the Crow is meant to be a fill-in for himself.

AG: That was my takeaway. I saw the Crow as a stand in for Pasolini, that he was inserting himself into the narrative.

DT: But it’s strange because it’s so —- I hesitate to use the term “heavy-handed,” it’s not heavy-handed, but it’s so kind of overtly political in a movie that isn’t so in your face with it all the time that I laughed a little bit. And also the absurdity of having a bird speaking words. I guess it does help the medicine go down a little bit, I guess you might say, especially in a movie that has a lot of really ridiculous things in it and scatological humor and all that mix of things that we actually haven’t gotten so far in the features we’ve talked about, which have been pretty serious. But if you’re anyone who’s delved into the shorter features and the segments in anthologies that Pasolini was making around that time, they tended to be a little lighter and had more of this kind of overt comedy in them.

AG: So it wasn’t totally unprecedented.

DT: Absolutely. And that’s something we’ll see when we look at some of those shorts a little bit later.

I was hoping we could start on a topic that I have zero background in at all, and that is the actor Totò, who plays one of the two leads in The Hawks and the Sparrows, and he was a famous Italian comedian. In fact, when he started collaborating with Pasolini, he was basically at the end of his life; he only had a couple of years before he passed away. I don’t have a lot of context for his position in the both the world of film as a whole and the comedic tradition in Italy; he seems sort of like a Buster Keaton-esque figure, but that that might be just because of him wearing the hat and having a kind of a sad face. But here, with him appearing in this movie, I feel like it’s this sort of outreach to mainstream Italians who might not otherwise have connected with some of the material here, because he would have been such a well-known figure at the time.

AG: Yeah. I mean, I’m in the same boat as you. I didn’t really know anything about him going in, so after I saw the movie, I went to his Wikipedia page to read about him.

DT: It’s interesting because we’re coming at this movie as foreigners to it. But you have imagine that Italian audiences, who had this beloved clown figure in the Chaplin mold, where  everybody would know him and his comedic persona, I think that would create a different interpretation of what you’re seeing than someone like myself, who’s coming at it with really having never seen this character in any other context.

 AG: Yeah, there were maybe certain expectations about the kind of role he would play or the creative choices he’d be making, baggage that audiences were bringing with them when they were watching. I don’t know.

DT: I mean, he’s still a very physical comedian, even at this latter part of his life. The way he walks even seems a little bit birdlike itself I noticed, when he’s walking along with the bird.

AG: And also during the sequence with the monks; he starts to mimic characteristics of a bird, making bird sounds, but also in the way he moved his head and body. It’s uncanny. It’s a very physical performance.

DT: Absolutely. What did you think of the two lead performances? Really, in terms of the characters that we spend any significant time with,  the whole story is Toto and Ninetto Davoli’s “Ninetto” characters, and we have of course the Crow as the third,  but really, those two actors dominate the screen time. What did you think of their performances here?

AG: I thought they had really charming, strong chemistry together, they played off each other really well and I could buy that they were father and son. Ninetto especially has a very magnetic presence, very warm and endearing. He’s a joy to watch.

DT: He has such a naturally happy face. He does always seem to be smiling. And he brings a levity to some of the material that’s going to become a lot more useful, I think, in some of the upcoming films. But you’re right, considering that apparently he had almost zero acting experience outside of his kind of minor appearance in the film that we talked about last time. I think he brings a comforting, youthful presence to what we’re watching here.

I have a question that we haven’t really discussed yet. I don’t know if it’s now appropriate to bring it up at this point, but do you have any internal, conflicting feelings about the Pasolini relationship with Davoli, knowing that they started what has always been reported as a physical relationship when Davoli was very, very young? And knowing that he became sort of his muse for the remainder of Pasolini’s career and remained in his films, is this something from the perspective of 2018 that we can provide proper perspective? I mean, do we even have the right to bring any judgment to something like that, or is it so removed from our current experience that it’s hard to be judgmental about it?

Pasolini with Ninetto Davoli. Photo credit unknown.

AG: I have very complicated thoughts on this topic in general, not just specific to Pasolini, and from any angle you come to it, it’s really a minefield. But I think it’s fair to talk about some of the things that were going on in Pasolini’s personal life, and I think certainly that this subject in particular is very relevant to his work because Davoli had such a strong influence on it. But —-

DT: We certainly never strayed from the fact that, you know, because his personal and his political and his art intermingle so completely…. I mean, you can’t separate the fact that he was a Marxist from this film and you certainly can’t separate his homosexuality from a lot of his different movies. So it’s hard to, now that we’re getting into a lot of films that will feature Davoli in them, and knowing that they had such a close relationship and knowing how Pasolini met his end, there is a moral question about the kinds of relationships with, perhaps his actors but specifically with Davoli that he had, and whether there was some exploitation there.

AG: I mean, on a certain level, I think any time you have an age gap relationship where one person is very young, and the other person is not only well into adulthood but also in a position of authority or power that they can leverage in that relationship, there’s a power imbalance there that is inherently exploitative, even if it isn’t consciously so to the people involved. But at the same time, I wasn’t there. I’m not either of them. I was not privy to the dynamics of that relationship, I can only make assumptions, and consider what the parties involved had to say on the matter.

DT: Yeah, it’s incredibly difficult. I haven’t read up on it enough to know. I only have a kind of surface level understanding of how the relationship both started and continued, and so maybe it’s a little unfair of me to speak on that with any sort of authority. But of course, we’re in this current political climate of 2018 where these sorts of power imbalances are something that are on the forefront of a lot of people’s minds.

AG: Yeah. There’s also another aspect to it that you don’t really hear discussed outside of queer circles very often, because when you do, it usually gets misconstrued. But, basically, we live in a time where young, queer people who are coming to terms with their sexuality can meet and talk to people their own age —- if not in person, then online —- who are going through the same struggles they are. But for a very long time, due to the social and legal ramifications of being openly gay, and the persecution that was inevitable, young, gay men could not easily meet other young, gay men and just be together or have an outlet where they could relate to each other, like average teenagers do, so often the easiest way, or the only way, they could explore that side of themselves or learn about what it meant to be gay was through older gay men they encountered. And sure, these circumstances opened up an opportunity for predation or exploitation on the part of the older parties in these relationships, but I cannot say unequivocally that every single one of these relationships fits that profile or was wholly damaging or detrimental. This doesn’t mean this is something I’d advocate for in 2018, I just think it’s important to take some of the social context of the time into consideration when discussing a relationship like Pasolini and Davoli’s, because it would have been a factor, and one that complicates matters.

DT: I think noting that the complexity of a situation where homosexuality was a crime, and knowing that the climate of that time period would mean that there’s a desperation in a lot of those relationships that’s been created by the society in which these people live, is a perspective I don’t think a lot of people give to that time period and those relationships. It’s one that I think is necessary for anyone, I think, looking at the relationships that happened around this time period, but also one that my familiarity with is not strong enough that I feel I even have a right, necessarily, to commentate on it, because it’s so separated from my own personal experience.

And again, we’re also speaking right now specifically about this particular circumstance. Every circumstance is of course a little bit different, and I’m not trying to say that the circumstance of 2018, where a lot of these situations are explicitly predatory, that they in any way are supposed to mirror each other. It’s just something that a lot of us are thinking about right now.

AG: Yeah, I agree. And I do think now, in 2018, when discussing Pasolini, it’s kind of unavoidable to address certain aspects of his personality or his life or his behaviors that would be seen as problematic today.

DT: Absolutely. It’s the reason I brought it up, because I felt that if we stayed away from it for too long —- I mean, I think it’s something at least we should discuss, because I’d hate to think that when we get to some of the more difficult material that’s to come, that it’s just it’s going to be sprung on us. Because it’s obviously something that that I’ve been thinking about.

To bring things back to the lighter topic of the actual movie that we’re discussing,  the movie is structured in kind of an interesting way. We have these two characters that are sort of on a trip, we don’t really know where they’re going, and it sort of seems very circular. They’re just sort of on the outskirts of the city. But at one point, the Crow tells them a parable, I guess you could call it, about the hawks and the sparrows —- just like the English title of the movie would suggest —- and then that tale is dramatized using the same two actors [Totò and Davoli] as two monks who are trying to basically convert hawks and sparrows to Christianity, or spread the good news so to speak. What was your take on it? Did you enjoy that sequence? It is obviously the core of what we’re seeing here.

AG: I did enjoy that sequence. I thought it was a little more engrossing than the primary plot with father and son traveling along the path. I think that allegory, or parable as you call it, was  a little bit cynical, which is not necessarily a criticism, but it’s sort of, you know —- the whole idea is: no matter how much you preach love and compassion, no matter how sincerely hard you try to change things, human beings will always be at war with each other, whether it’s for class reasons, or racial reasons, or whether it’s because of sexual and gender identity, or religion, that is just in our nature. Conflict is in our nature, and all we can really do is simply continue to try to reach out and make those connections with other people, to send that message of love and understanding, as the monks did with the hawks and the sparrows. Whether by faith-based means, as in the film, or simply by being an example of empathy and understanding and holding ourselves to that standard.

DT: I think I echo a lot of those feelings. Speaking of echoing, it’s actually echoed in the movie itself when we see those kind of power dynamics between our lead characters —- and at one point Toto has been renting out to this poor family, and then later we see him talk to his own landlord, who treats him exactly as he treated that family.  And you know we see how this “hawk and sparrow” dynamic plays out in real life. I agree with you that it’s a very cynical take. I think it’s interesting how, again —- and this goes back to The Gospel According to St. Matthew last time —- that there’s sort of a tenderness to the religious presentation here, in that specifically in that parable part, where we see, you know, Totò’s faith, and it’s that faith is what allows him to communicate with these animals in the first place. And though it’s played on a kind of a comedic level, he’s actually sort of sweet as well. And then, again,  they go through this immense effort and they do have that communication that occurs and because whether it’s you can’t combat the tenants of capitalism, or whether you can’t combat nature and the way that these animals interact within nature, that it doesn’t matter how much of that message gets across separately when those dynamics are intermingled and it becomes predator and prey.

AG: Yeah, that’s another interesting layer to it.

DT: This isn’t a very good transition, but I do want to talk about —- because I forgot to bring it up right at the beginning, but it’s something that I really wanted to talk about because it’s my favorite part of the entire film.

AG: I wonder if it’s what I think it is. [laughs]

DT: [laughs] I’m sure it likely is. I do want to talk about the opening title sequence.

AG: Yes! I love it. For those reading at home, Domenico Modugno sings the opening credits, the names of the cast and crew. I thought that was really cool. And for it to be accompanied by Morricone?

DT: It is wonderful. I mean, it’s the opening to —- like you just said, it’s Ennio Morricone. It’s this wonderful, slightly overwrought singing of all the opening title actors and crew, and Pasolini himself. And of course, so many of them have the “e” sound at the end of their name, so there’s this really nice cadence throughout. And it’s hilarious and really unique. If there was ever any question that this was going to be taking a lighter tone than the movies we watched so far in this project, that goes out the window immediately. It really is one of the highlights if not the highlight of the entire movie.

AG: Yeah, totally.

DT: It actually does bring us to Morricone’s music in this as a whole. It’s 1966 when this movie came out, so Morricone was deep into his spaghetti western phase, if you can call it that —- not that he wasn’t incredibly prolific in all sorts of different areas. But, what did you think of the soundtrack, is it something that you noticed outside of that opening title?

AG: Yeah, definitely. Given that I’m a musician myself, music —- or the lack of it —- is always one of the first things I notice in a movie. I really liked Morricone’s score here. I especially enjoyed all of the guitar based cues. It definitely reminded me of the spaghetti western stuff, the very bright, thin, clean guitar tone. I also loved the line dancing scene, which was out of left field, I felt, but a welcome bit of surreal frivolity. Something music-related that puzzled me a bit came later, in that scene when they go to the house with that family, the music veers very abruptly into an Eastern sort of mode. I don’t know if you noticed, but there was a line where the woman said something to the effect of, “the Chinese, the Chinese,” and then the music shifts abruptly. I didn’t understand —-

DT: I didn’t understand her reference to the Chinese at all.

AG: I didn’t, either. I remember thinking, this sure seems like some sort of racist thing I don’t quite grasp.

DT: It seems like we were on the same page, because I was concerned about the same thing. But yes, if it wasn’t, maybe that musical note made it a little bit inappropriate.

AG: I agree. But yeah, I think the music imbues the movie with a lot of character.

DT: You know, we’ve talked a little bit about the political themes of the movie, and it’s not that they’re so difficult to parse that a modern audience who has no familiarity with the time period wouldn’t be able to at least figure out the symbolic meaning in The Hawks and the Sparrows, and that we see it played out over and over in those relationships. But there are a couple of little moments in the movie that I wanted to bring up, the first one being when we see Ninetto near the beginning of the movie. He goes to visit a girl —- she’s supposed to be somebody he’s had a relationship with, I guess you could call her his girlfriend, and she’s dressed as an angel when he meets her, for some sort of play. And she was the same actress who played the angel in The Gospel According to St. Matthew, but of course here, an incredibly different context. It seems absolutely intentional here; I think he says that she looks like an airplane when he first sees her with the wings on. [laughs]

In some ways, it seems like a slight piss-take on his own work. Not that he’s undermining it, but he’s using people’s familiarity with that work already to kind of make a little joke on his own casting. It seems self-aware in a way that I don’t know if we’ve seen so far.

AG: There’s definitely a sense of playful irony there.

DT: Yeah, absolutely. This is another movie, by the way, where the female roles are kept to a minimum. And I don’t want to make too much of that than it needs to be, particularly because there are some strong female roles that will be coming up in some of the movies we’re about to cover. But, you know, aside from the grieving mother, I guess you call her grieving —- the very poor mother that they encounter —- and then the, I don’t know if I should use the word “prostitute” that they encounter at the end, but the female roles are sort of minimized in the context of this movie. I don’t know if that’s worth noting in any kind of detail, but I do think we should at least mention that later sequence where both Ninetto and Totò encounter the prostitute —- if we should call her that —- on the side of the road. What was your interpretation of what we were supposed to get out of that?

AG: If anything, I mean, beyond the fact that I think we’re supposed to infer that they both engage in some kind of sex act with her, though we don’t see it happen —- I’m not sure. I don’t know if that was merely supposed to be another unexpected thing that happens in the movie for comedic value, or if we should be reading some kind of deeper symbolic significance into it, like crossing over from innocence to worldliness or something along those lines, but I’ll be honest: if the latter is the case, I didn’t.

DT: I’ve read some interpretations that the Ninetto character is supposed to exist in a sort of social and political sphere that’s in between his father and the Crow. He’s sort of still moldable in some way, though he’s still literally and figuratively walking in his father’s footsteps in this movie. He sometimes branches off, he sometimes does his own thing. But I did find it interesting that, you know, it sort of almost culminates in him having a sexual experience with someone immediately after his own father does.

AG: That’s interesting. That definitely wasn’t my read of it, but it seems plausible to me; I can believe Pasolini would write that scene with that intent behind it.

DT: Particularly because it’s sort of —- it happens before the actual ending of the movie, where the father and the son, they’re on the same page in terms of doing an act which I guess seems inevitable once it happens, but still comes as somewhat of a surprise. I guess it’s OK to spoil it at this point, I don’t think it’s necessarily meant as a shocking moment, but…I’ll just say it: both father and son decide to kill and eat the bird. The Crow. And of course, that brings with it a lot of potential symbolic meaning, but I have to be honest, I’m not necessarily sure which one we’re supposed to lean on once the movie ends itself, whether it’s just supposed to be this kind of ironic, light way to bring things to an end. It’s why I’ve had a little bit of trouble engaging with this movie as a whole. I do find the “hawks and sparrows” section with the parable at the center of the movie —- I really like that, and I like some of the episodic aspects of it afterwards. But I do find that it becomes so episodic, particularly that part where they encounter the theater troupe, which I don’t think —- I just think there’s so much going on there, and I feel like I did not have a handle on it at all. I enjoyed the absurdity, but I didn’t have a handle on what the meaning of any of it was.

AG: I read that the theater troupe was supposed to symbolize or stand for the different marginalized groups in society: the disabled, racial minorities, homosexuals —- which I think makes sense. But again, I’m not sure that would have occurred to me if I hadn’t actually done a little bit of reading about the movie.

DT: Yeah, as I said, there’s a lot going on, and I just want to feel like I appreciated it on the level that Pasolini would have wanted me to, but I’m not sure that I even came close to that.

AG: Me too. It’s a very dense movie, which, given that the tone of the film is very light for the most part, and kind of farcical, you might think that the opposite would be true. But actually, he packed in a lot of political and social commentary, and though some of it, I have to admit, probably went over my head, there’s enough I was able to absorb.

DT: This was Pasolini’s favorite of his own films.

AG: I read that, too, and it kind of surprised me.

DT: Maybe it’s because of some of that overt speechifying of his own political feelings at the time. In his short, La ricotta, there’s another character that just speaks a lot of Pasolini’s words as well. We’ll get to that eventually, but….I think he likes having sort of a figurehead that is representing his own feelings, maybe out of fear that audiences wouldn’t get it otherwise. But I also read that he had sort of conflicting feelings on how effective this movie was as a comedy, and that maybe he leaned too heavily on the social commentary over the comedic aspects, and I have to say that I sort of agree with that in that, it’s not that I did not find parts of this funny, because I really did, and there are moments of it that are real highlights, but I do kind of feel like —- there are times I feel like I was being spoken to as opposed to being left to interpret. And other times, I felt like the visual elements are trying to tell me something that I just couldn’t work out.

Like, even when we have Totò near the beginning of the movie, and he’s standing with a crowd while Ninetto goes to see his girlfriend, and Totò witnesses this body being brought out of a building and all the neighbors are talking about, you know, who this person was. I’m not 100 percent sure what I was meant to get out of that part, and it certainly didn’t have a comedic tone to it. It’s actually kind of naturalistic in a way that some of the previous Pasolini movies were and I’m still kind of struggling with it, but again, I don’t mind struggling with the movie and there’s going to be a lot of struggles yet to come. So, you know, I’m fine with it. But I also feel like this is a movie that I should revisit a few years down the line and see if I have a different take on some of the material.

AG: Yeah, I feel the same way, especially as we go deeper into Pasolini’s filmography and we have a firmer grasp of his overall body of work. It would be interesting to go back and revisit the movie and see how it fits in, and whether we’ll have a better grasp on the material in hindsight. But yeah, “transitional” is a really good word for this movie, because it seems like he didn’t really quite know how to balance the neorealist elements and then the new kind of overtly comedic elements he was experimenting with, I guess.

DT: And it’s interesting to think of this again as transitional because of the movies that are about to come.

AG: I think this the last film he made in black and white.

DT: Right. And though he had dabbled in his short films in color previously, we’re about to enter a whole big world of color. We’re going to start going into a lot of adaptations soon. We’ll be seeing how he tackles a lot of the same material without being able to overtly put it on the screen, necessarily, or put it on the screen through the words of the characters as overtly. But, as we talked about in The Gospel According to St. Matthew, if you can make Jesus sound like a Marxist just by using his own words, it shows that the director holds a lot of power.

AG: Yeah, totally.

DT: Just wrapping up here, I don’t want to make it seem like I didn’t enjoy watching this movie. I did very much. I liked the fact that that we’re seeing a different tone compared to the movies we’ve covered so far, that it it’s a little lighter, that it does have these comedic elements to it. I do think that we also see the confidence of Pasolini as a filmmaker growing. There’s not as much overtly stylistic elements as we’ll see in the future, but this is an obviously confident director, and confident enough to try a lot of different things, even if they are not always successful. I mean, not every director would put a talking bird in his movie and just let it sit and exist as something that all the characters just accept right away.

Adrianna, you mentioned that maybe this isn’t one of your favorites that you’ve seen.

AG: If I had to rank the four films we’ve watched now for the series, this would be dead last. And that’s not to say I think it’s bad. I just didn’t connect with it in the same way that I did the previous three films. I really appreciate that Pasolini is taking a lot of risks, both stylistically and in terms of tone. It’s kind of breaking away from what I think people came to expect from him after his first three features. I do respect that, and it was a nice change of pace, as you said, because the last three films are pretty bleak. But yeah, I found this film, like you said, more of a challenge to make sense of, and not because the narrative was hard to follow, just that it seemed like there are a lot of context-heavy things that were going over my head, that I think maybe if I had a better awareness of Italian politics at the time, I think maybe I would have had a better time with it. But as it stands, I found it a little bit harder to grapple with.

DT: It does take a little bit more work to parse, I guess, all the humor out of it, out of the situations, out of what we’re supposed to interpret from it than from the material that we’ve seen from Pasolini so far. Which is both exciting for future revisits, but it’s also —- at this period of watching it, it can make it a little bit difficult in a way that isn’t fun for me, or isn’t funny. It kind of sapped some of the humor out of it, because I’m left struggling with some of the moments. But I will say that I’m glad to know that the humor train will continue with the next film from Pasolini that we’ll be discussing, which is Oedipus Rex from the year 1966 or ’67, which, when we talk about transitional and the kind of new phase of Pasolini in his career that we’re going to be discussing, Oedipus Rex is going to be —- boy, that’s going to be a big one.

AG: The feel-good hit of the summer.

DT: [laughs] Exactly. It’s going to be a while before we tackle something as light as The Hawks and the Sparrows again. So as a kind of jovial interlude, I’m very glad that we were able to experience it.

AG: Yeah, absolutely. Me too.

Adrianna Gober

Adrianna Gober

Adrianna Gober is a Lehigh Valley-based writer and musician. She loves record collecting, comic books, and all things schlocky, campy and kitsch.
Adrianna Gober
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