Pranzo di Ferragosto

Pranzo di ferragosto

 

(RAW-May 25, 2010)

 

If I made a movie called “Christmas Party,” and then released it to a foreign territory that did not acknowledge said holiday, would they release it titled (in that country’s language, of course, “Late-December Gathering?”

Now aside from confusing Master P, who doesn’t seem quite aware of when holidays fall during the calendar year, it is interesting that the folks at Zeitgeist changed the US release of this title to “Mid-August Lunch.” I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about the holiday of ferragosto, celebrated in Italy prior to the screening, but so what? God forbid we have an educational experience just by opening ourselves up to another culture, right?

So I’ll educate you briefly: the Pranzo di Ferragosto is Italy’s biggest summer holiday, and the Feast of the Assumption.

There.

Some might say that folks would stay away from a film with an unfamiliar title such as one containing a holiday they know not of. To this, I say two things. Firstly, I went in wondering why not late August, or early August? What was so important about this particular lunch? Secondly, there were about four people in the theatre during a one week run at an art house theatre. They stayed away anyway.

Briefly: some folks just need to get away from their mothers to celebrate their holiday. Gianni Di Gregorio plays a (upper) middle-aged man who is down on his luck. He lives with his 93 year old mother in a condo. He is broke, and he is in debt. He hasn’t paid his electricity bill in three years and has to avoid being caught on the terrace so he can try and finagle his way out of paying (“I don’t use the terrace. I will not pay the fee!”).

Enter the building’s manager. He is also middle-aged, and his mother is also still very much alive (this film is full of quiet laughter at old men and older mothers). He needs to unload her for a time. He can make Gianni’s condo problems disappear if Gianni can make his mother disappear for the weekend (not like murder or anything, I’m just trying to be clever—like, babysit her, I mean). He reluctantly agrees. Gianni’s mother agrees even more reluctantly. It turns out the middle-aged doctor has been given a night shift and his mother’s caretaker is gone also. You get the picture.

So we wind up with Gianni and four old ladies for this particular holiday…and that is what the film is about.

The film is wonderful in the small details. Gianni’s mother has skin that makes leather look soft. Gianni, constantly sipping wine, plays the part perfectly, with just the right hint of emotion when necessary. And the food:  there is plenty of delicious food here.

I enjoyed the ending very much, particularly a close up on the doctor’s mother’s face. It perfectly culminates the story of old folks, and how they can be so much like children…and the lessons in family, community, and feasting, that we can all learn.  And all in a slight 75 minutes.

NOTE: I saw this digitally. Not on film! YUCK!

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