Friday, August 12, 2011

IFI’s Staff Favourites: Mid-August Lunch

Fans of Gianni di Gregorio’s Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di Ferragosto) will be licking their lips in anticipation of his upcoming film, The Salt of Life. But before it reaches the cinema, it may be well worth getting hold of his first, much-loved feature, just to remind yourself of the delights that may be in store from this talented writer/actor/director.

Set in a sultry Rome over the August 15th bank holiday weekend, di Gregorio plays the middle-aged son whose life revolves around looking after his aged mother, Valeria, drinking wine and cooking. His weekend turns upside down when he’s imposed upon to look after the apartment block caretaker’s mother – in return for his waiving overdue service charges. Then the doctor’s mother lands in on them as well. Before he can open another bottle, Gianni has four seniors with varying medical and dietary demands in his charge. Ruling over the lot is Valeria, resplendent in full theatrical makeup and a towering wig. She’s like someone from Dynasty and indeed controls the home like one, refusing to give the guests rights over the TV or to join them at the table. At first irritated by their bickering and peevishness, Gianni works his way through several glasses of wine, moaning to a local ‘character’ about his fate. He escapes too, in the search for some fish, in a brief road journey on the back of a motorbike, where we get a glimpse of the kind of life Gianni dreams of. But once back home, he gets totally caught up, fending off drunken advances from Marina, and negotiating a way through their various demands.

With a lightness of touch in direction and a deftness in his performance, di Gregorio makes his middle-aged character appeal and amuse as he works his way through several glasses of wine and countless cigarettes. Watching this sometimes vacant looking character settle into the night and ultimately warm to the palm-reading and chat that diverts the women, it’s hard to imagine that he’s the writer of Gomorrah, the hard-hitting drama about organised crime in Naples.

When Mid-August Lunch was first released, some people said ‘nothing happens in it’. That’s true, but maybe that’s the point. In Gregorio’s screenlife nothing much does happen other than the day to day round of meals, medicaments, forays to the bar, chat and tv. And yet, on a stifling august weekend, for a brief couple of hours, there’s friendship, laughter and tenderness, among a group of women whose family had dispensed with them for other pursuits. By the end of the film, we’re dancing with him in that small overcrowded room, where for a brief period, the womens’ isolation and awareness of their mortality is forgotten. Treat yourself to some mid-august warmth with this gem of a film.

Alicia McGivern
Head of Education

Mid-August Lunch is available on DVD from IFI Bookstore. Salt of Life runs exclusively at the IFI in August 12th - 25th. Tickets on sale now at or 01 679 3477. 

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