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The great comedian Totò and Pasolini regular Ninetto Davoli star as a hapless father-and-son team who wander the roads of Italy in the company of a talking crow, in Pasolini's marvellous Brechtian comedy.
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Brechtian bliss. "Considered by Pasolini his purest film and by many his masterpiece" (Mira Liehm), Hawks and Sparrows marks a turning point in both the director's career and the history of Italian cinema. (Godard closes his surging paean to postwar Italian cinema in Histoire(s) du cinema with an iris shot of the film's talking crow — a major homage indeed.) In a kind of parody of the Holy Trinity, comic genius and patron saint of Naples Totò stars with Pasolini regular Ninetto Davoli as a hapless father-and-son team, wandering the roads of Italy in the company of a voluble crow who is fond of debating politics and telling ancient tales. From the delightfully original, sung-through opening credits (the score is by Ennio Morricone) to the final sequence, which brings new meaning to the expression "eating crow," Hawks and Sparrows has a deadly serious subject — "the degraded search for authentic values in a degraded world" — but its comedy is charmingly daft and buoyant. With its sly winks at Chaplin, Keaton, Beckett, Fellini, De Sica and Pasolini's own cinema, and to non-cinematic figures like Marx, Mao, and Dante, Hawks and Sparrows is "genial, humorous and compassionate ... lively and fascinating, so primitive and droll.... Totò especially is beguiling" (Bosley Crowther, The New York Times).