In preparation for the Wisconsin Film Fest which kicks off tomorrow, I was provided with an advance screener of the short film Pass the Salt, Please by the film’s writer, Greendale, WI resident Jeffrey James Ircink.
The 13-minute film portrays the dinner conversation that takes place one night between an elderly married couple (adeptly performed by film and stage veteran Fionnula Flanagan and indie movie staple Seymour Cassel). Don’t be fooled, though, this is no My Dinner With Andre. The conversation begins with the pair trading barbs and snipes, and compulsively passing the titular salt shaker back and forth across the long table, desparately attempting to add some flavor both to their bland food and marriage. Quickly and seemingly out of nowhere however, the conversation quickly devolves into an indulgence of the couple’s dormant sexual fantasies, each describing their depraved urges to each other with language straight out of a pornographic film.
In addition to being a hilarious conversation between two septuagenarians verbally acting out their wildest sexual cravings, the film is an exploration of our society’s practice of sex. The film opens with a quote by feminist activist and author Betty Friedan from her most famous work, The Feminine Mystique: “…sex in the America of the feminine mystique is becoming a strangely joyless national compulsion.” We see this joylessness in Pass the Salt, Please, as the couple’s conversational exploration is little more than sound and fury, as the pair return to their regular routine and the passing of the salt.
Pass the Salt, Please is based on a short play of the same name written by Ircink. I would love to see this work staged, as I think that the intimacy of a live performance would heighten both the tension and the comedy. In the meantime, however, I recommend this hilarious film to anyone attending the Wisconsin Film Fest this week. It will be presented along with four other Wisconsin-based short films on Saturday April 21 at 4:15 pm. More info and tickets available here.