Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di Ferragosto) opens with Gianni reading The Three Musketeers aloud to his mother, Valeria. They converse a bit about it, and soon she falls asleep. Gianni's kindness, the gentleness of his response to her questions, and the deep contentment on her face show the viewer a kind of love which is rarely seen in a movie.
We don't know what Gianni did before, but what he does now is take care of his mother. I wasn't exactly sure of the living situation but it seemed like they live in a condo, but not what we Americans think of as a condo. It has the look of a simple, somewhat shabby apartment. When the manager comes by, we learn that Gianni is way behind on his fees. But there is an alternative. He will forgive the debt if Gianni will take care of his mother, Marina for the weekend. Naturally, Gianni agrees. When he brings Marina, he also drops off her sister, Maria. And while Gianni is figuring out arrangements, his doctor shows up offering medical care (for a slight heart ailment) in return for Gianni taking care of his mother for couple days.
So there is Gianni taking care of four elderly women. It seems they know one another, but only slightly. It also appears that these women are mostly housebound in their own homes, and that this weekend is a big adventure for them all. Gianni is run off his feet cooking meals, making sure each one is comfortable, keeping his mother happy, moving the little tv from room to room, and chasing after one of them who has taken off without telling him.
Gianni is rarely seen without a glass of wine or a cigarette, and lord knows the man deserves them!
Gianni is a wonderful cook. He creates little masterpieces in his kitchen which has no granite counters or fancy cabinets or appliances.
August 15 - Ferragosto or Assumption Day, is a national holiday in Italy, and the lunch Gianni makes, with the help of his friend, Viking is the centerpiece of the film.
By the end of the film, these women have become fast friends, and are reluctant to go back to their former lives. I like to think that this celebratory lunch was only the first in a long line of get-togethers provided by, of course, Gianni.
I saw this movie last summer at our little small town theatre, and just recently watched it again on Netflix instant. It is also available on dvd. I may buy a copy for myself because I love it so much. I've never seen anything quite as joyful and kindly.
Mid-August Lunch is my offering for this week's Weekend Cooking. Please visit Beth Fish Reads for more writings on food related topics, and perhaps join in yourself.
Addendum: I just came upon a nice interview with the man who plays Gianni, (and who is also the director), here.