Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pranzo di Ferragosto (Mid-August Lunch)

This is a quite short (75 minutes) film by Gianni Di Gregorio that’s simply marvelous as tells a very compelling story about a subject that hardly is touched in the big screen, really old age (above 80 years old) and while is fantastic to watch it gives a great message for those that live in societies and/or large cities where old age is seen like a burden to the family.

The story co written by Di Gregorio tells about two days in Rome, when the August holiday happens (Assumption Virgin celebration) and Rome inhabitants leave the city for a cooler climate. One single mature man, Giovanni, cannot leave as he takes care of his 90ish year old mother. For the same reason he cannot work, so money is low and debts are high. But this is Rome and his landlord tells him that if he takes care of his mother for the holiday, his debts will be forgotten. So, Giovanni accepts and Marina comes with Aunt Maria. But, his busy doctor has also a favor to ask, to take care of her mother! So, Giovanni ends up taking care of four very old and lovely ladies and you have no idea of how fantastic are the moments while we see the ladies and Giovanni!

None other than Di Gregorio plays Giovanni and you can guess that is a small budget production, as he directs, did the screenplay, co wrote the story and is the only male lead in the film (is also his debut as an actor). But my surprise is that Di Gregorio is better known as the co writer/assistant director of Gomorra and Matteo Garrone is the sole producer of this great film. With this kind of credentials it should not be a surprise that first time helmer Di Gregorio is getting big success with this film, especially in Italy but not only, as the film has many honors in the fest circuit and collected nominations and awards, including winning the ISVEMA Award, the Luigi De Laurentiis Award and the Pasinetti Award at the 2008 Venice film fest where was premiered at the Settimana Internazionale della Critica ; also the Satyajit Ray Award at the 2008 London fest. If you browse the blog you will find more honors.

The film as a film is interesting as almost everything happens inside the apartment where Giovanni and his mother live (which was Di Gregorio’s old house) so cinematography is minimal and the most peculiar thing is that you really enjoy the performances by the four ladies and was a good surprise to find that all are non-professional actors and they were being themselves. He new Grazia as is his real life aunt, the mother is a family friend and for the other two roles he went to an elderly house. The lovely ladies are 93, 90, 88 and 86. Amazing!

As one review says and I have to say it here, please do not watch this movie with an empty stomach as if you do surely you’ll be running to the nearest Italian restaurant. As in many Latin cultures food is home, the kitchen is the heart of the home and in this film both are explored copiously.

I have to say that if you’re not familiar with Latin cultures this movie could make you feel emotions like embarrassment, restless, and similar feelings, as has been exposed in many viewers and critic’s comments. But still I recommend watching this movie as is a little gem of Italian cinema that should not be miss for the story and the fantastic job that Di Gregorio does “directing” the ladies and with every other hat he wears in this film. Bravissimo!


Watch trailer @ Movie On Companion

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