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Put Your Feet Up....

Film Reviews – Ageing, Older People and Family/Friendly Care in Film

Graciela Gonzalez
86 year old retired dental surgeon and emerging film critic

This Issue’s selection are both new films - Salt of Life (2011) and A Separation (2011). The first film is a light comedy from the same director as a Mid-August Lunch (reviewed in GR 21.1). If you enjoyed that film, you will find this one charming as well. A Separation is a drama in a non-European environment dealing with a complex story that raises many questions.

Salt of Life

Country: Italy
Cast: Gianni Di Gregorio, Valeria De Franciscis, Alfonso Santagata
Director: Gianni Di Gregorio
Language: Italian (with English subtitles)Genres: Comedy
Running Time: 90 minutes

Gianni is a retired and now a househusband for his wife and daughter. He also looks after his increasingly eccentric elderly mother (De Franciscis who also starred in Mid-August Lunch). On an almost daily basis he walks the dog of his young attractive neighbour, runs to his mother’s when she is in need, prepares meals for his family, and spends time contemplating his life and probably his future – including unfulfilled desires.

As one reviewer previously stated, this is really a snapshot of a person’s life and the viewer is invited to look in. It feels a lot like Mid-August Lunch although the stories are not connected. The naturalness of the acting (verismo) makes it a delight to watch. And De Franciscis’s character (remember she’s in her 90’s and is new to acting), is a little too familiar at times.

The Separation

Country: Iran
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat
Language: Persian (with English subtitles)
Genres: Drama
Running Time: 123 minutes

Nadar and Simin are married with a young daughter. Simin would like the family to move abroad to establish a better future for her daughter, but Nadar refuses to leave because he wants to care for his father who has Alzheimer’s disease. Frustrated with her husband and threatening divorce, Simin takes her daughter and goes and lives with her family. Nadar hires a woman to help care for his father, but unknown to him she is pregnant and working without her husband’s permission.

The film is set in contemporary Iran and these social customs appear to govern the behaviour of the characters we see. The story moves between duties to parents and duties to children, as well as the consequences of incident that changes everyone’s lives forever.

The acting is superb, the environment a bit claustrophobic (it’s mostly shot inside), and it gives you an insight to a world foreign to many Westerners. The film has received outstanding reviews around the globe and well worth seeing.

Writing Letters

John Bell Smithback

I recently read about someone who was continually writing letters. “To her, letter writing was a necessity,” the article said, immediately reminding me of Jane M. who lived in a tiny Swiss village above Interlaken. Letters: it was the importance of writing them that motivated her, propelled her through the long hours of winter until, late in the day when long purple shadows began to crawl along the floor of the valley and the sun was about to vanish behind the Alps, she would leave her writing table with its neat stack of sealed envelopes to await the following day’s postman. She rose early and was at her typewriter just after her morning coffee, and it would be dusk when she’d finally join her guests to make conversation. A bottle of local red wine was opened, and as the evening progressed a dinner would be prepared, always, it seemed, in haste: a last-minute thought as though dinner itself - fried pork or lamb chops with potatoes wrapped in foil and baked in the front room’s fireplace - did not have the same importance as the evening conversation.

When the meal was done, more logs would be placed at the back of the fireplace to hiss and spit as they were cinched by flames. Piano music came from a phonograph across the room, the music of Chopin or Rachmaninoff repeating itself as the phonograph clicked and clicked again before replaying the same record. The fireplace draft would be set and reset to contain the heat, yet even when a fire was lit to the wood chips in the room’s small tile stove, the room was never truly warm. Jane pointed out the numerous shawls and lap blankets on the chairs and couch that she and her guests then wrapped over their shoulders and gathered around their legs. In due course, another bottle of red wine was opened. Outside, large snowflakes were settling in the darkness, and now and then the house might give a small shudder and the windows would rattle ever so slightly as an accumulation of snow slipped from the roof. A full kettle sat on the stone hearth, and when the water was warm it was poured into three or four empty snap-cap beer bottles that were placed beneath one’s stocking feet. Hours later, with the last of the logs smouldering, all conversation ceased. The phonograph was turned off and the snap-cap bottles were filled again to take to an upstairs bed: one warm bottle to be laid against either side of one’s fully-clothed body as one lay stiff and uncomfortable in a frigid room beneath a feather duvet.

Then, in a frozen silence so crisp that one was almost afraid to move, the clackety clack clack sounds of a typewriter began to spill out into the frozen hush of that mountain world. As I said, writing letters was Jane’s necessity.

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