Monday, March 15, 2010

MID-AUGUST LUNCH served at Film Forum; Di Gregorio's sweet trifle engages

So delicate and light that it just might float away before its 75 minutes are over, the award-winning MID-AUGUST LUNCH, written and directed by and starring Gianni Di Gregorio (shown below), is a mother/son shaggy dog story with a lot of charm. Taking place, as its title indicates, mid-August in Trastevere, an area of Rome that is old and run-
down but inviting as hell, the movie posits a season when Italians take leave of Rome, like the French leave Paris. So empty are the streets shown here, however, that it appears tourists, too, have forsaken the place. Unlikely perhaps, but it probably helped enormously the movie's miniscule budget.

A middle-age man named Gianni (played by Di Gregorio) opens the film by reading to his aged mother (played by Valeria De Franciscis, shown at bottom). Soon, we're neck-deep in their lives, which now include some other old ladies foisted upon our hero by his physician and his building's managing agent. The movie ambles along pleasantly, with a visual or verbal joke now and again. Mostly its humor and charm derive from the situation and the well-chosen ensemble of mid-life men and old ladies (all non-profes-
sionals) who grace the place.

In addition to this gallery of women (above), "Lunch" offers a few choice fellows, starting with perhaps the most charming cast member, Luigi Marchetti (shown gesturing below).  He plays a fellow named Viking who ends up helping our hero with his lunch. The scene in which Gianni watches Viking asleep on the bed and begin to chuckle is a dear one, indeed. Another "friend" Alfonso, deposits his mom in order to have a little weekend fun and promi-
ses, for the trouble, to alleviate Gianni's and his mother's financial situation. (The doctor, at least, is up front about his mom's needs.)

That's it, mostly. But in the easy-going details Di Gregorio consis-
tently provides, the movie finds both its pace and its entertainment value.  For an older generation, at least.  Younger film-goers who stumble into this odd treat may want to switch to a diet of Green Zone soon after partaking of the luncheon, so quiet and lacking in event may it seem.  Not really, though.  By the end, more is going to change here than merely the napkins and the tablecloth.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the film is that Signore Di Gregorio (above) is the co-writer of last year's shockeroola, Gomorrah, while the film's producer is none other than Matteo Garrone, the director of that dark Italian crime movie.  After bringing to fruition such a deadly bundle, both men probably needed a break from the ugly, raw and wretched. They got a good one in this minor gem.

Mid-August Lunch begin its two-week run on Wednesday, March 17, at NYC's Film Forum, via Zeitgeist Films.  You can find perfor-
mance dates and times at this Film Forum link.  For future screenings, cities and theaters, click here.

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