Mid-August Lunch/Pranzo di Ferragosto

 

JUST HOW slight can a film be without floating off the celluloid and dissipating about the auditorium? Gianni Di Gregorio’s charming but astonishingly insubstantial debut feature looks like a practical attempt to answer a question previously asked by the likes of Jim Jarmusch. Well, Mid-August Lunchmakes Stranger Than Paradiseseem like Transformers, but it remains an engaging and moving experience. So, I guess the answer is very, very slight indeed.

Di Gregorio, an experienced assistant director, stars as Gianni, a middle-aged man who lives with his elderly mother in a reasonably attractive Roman apartment building. One day Luigi, the building supervisor, arrives to offhandedly remind the protagonist that he is behind in certain important bills. If Gianni could look after his own mother then, perhaps, he might overlook the arrears.

When, however, Luigi returns he also has his aunt in tow. Later, Gianni’s doctor persuades the harassed chap to take in hismother for a night or two. Now saddled with four quarrelling old ladies, the hero sets out to plan a lunch in celebration of the Italian festival of Ferragosto.

Shot with natural lighting, featuring many non-professional actors, Mid-August Lunchshuns action (one lady does briefly goes missing) to focus acutely on its endlessly good-natured hero. After a tidy 75 minutes, you emerge feeling that you have genuinely got to know somebody who was well worth meeting.

One minor reservation does nag. The print I saw had, as its English- language title, the rather lovely The Ferragosto Lunch. Doesn’t that trip off the tongue? In contrast, Mid-August Lunch, though kind to Italophobes, clogs up the mouth like overcooked rigatoni.