Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di ferragosto)

Judging by my audience, the fact that this film was "from the makers of "Gomorrah"' wasn't what got people to come to this film (although the preceding phrase on the poster, "A delicious comedy," may have). Either way, finding two more different films could be a challenge. "Mid-August Lunch," the second acting credit and first directing one from, as other's have said, one of "Gomorrah"'s six scribes Gianni Di Gregorio, is a nice fit for this guy. He plays a character named Gianni, which may be playing himself, but maybe not. He's already pretty stressed out, though his life has somewhat of a rhythm, of reading to his mother (Valeria De Francisis, whose character is similarly named) and buying food and, as many have said, his comfort of wine. He doesn't get enough sleep, and he's also facing the problem of (as my friend said) "having the bills to pay," which he's pretty terrible at. Luckily, or unluckily, he is confronted on the day before Mid-August Lunch (which is apparently a pretty big Italian holiday) with a solution: he takes in the mother (Marina Cacciotti, an Italian Betty White) of the guy who's collecting his money (Alonso Santagata), and some of the debts will be paid. I doubt that Gianni knew that this woman was a troublemaking, smoking, saucy old lady.

This is for Gianni already a hassle, but add to that the fact that Alonso also pushes on Gianni his aunt, played by Maria Cali. To add to that, his doctor Marcello (Marcello Ottolenghi) gives him his mother, who's even more of a problem as she can't eat a lot of things, which leads to the conflict of not being able to let her have the dinner.

Let's get one thing out of the way: this is a short movie. Wes Anderson turned a similar plot into a 110 minute film called "The Royal Tenenbaums" (a better movie I might add), whereas Gregorio turns this into a 75-minute film that is not quite of the same sort. I mention the running time like many critics have because it really governs how you think about the movie going in. When you check your watch, it's not the same experience as with a film over 90 minutes.

Similarly to "Gomorrah," it has a nonconventional narrative structure, as it is more about atmosphere than plot. Gianni could have been looked into deeper as a character, although I guess there really isn't anything to know about him other than the fact that he wishes he didn't have to entertain so many people.

There are good moments in this film. I love the shot where Gianni and his friend Viking (Luigi Marchetti) are riding to find fish on a motorcycle; it's reminiscent of the magnificent final sequence of "Amelie." Gianni's duties and behaviors are also out-of-the-ordinary and find some disbelief in the audience.

The film is ultimately about realizing that going with the flow is the best way to go if you want to have a nice time. This is admirable. And Gregorio I like as an actor, in his singsongy way, casting himself perfectly. But I was at times feeling like Mike D'Angelo when he tweeted about Daniele Luchetti's Cannes entry "Our Life": "shit happens but has no repercussions, so why should I care?" And, though I'll admit I was tired going to see it, the dreaded disconnect (as Ebert said of "I Heart Huckabees" and my friend said of "Mother and Child") was there. But if you really think about it, you see why it goes where it goes. B-

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Normally an Italian movie would be an easy sell with me. :-) But somehow I don't think this would be my cup of tea, probably because I gravitate toward character-driven stories.