The Salt of Life (Italian: Gianni e le Donne), 2011.
Directed by Gianni Di Gregorio.
Starring Gianni Di Gregorio, Alfonso Santagata, Elisabetta Piccolomini, Valeria Cavalli and Valeria de Franciscis.
A hen-pecked house husband attempts to reacquaint himself with some of life’s pleasures.
After spending much of his career in the theatre, Italian actor-turned-filmmaker Gianna Di Gregorio made his directorial debut back in 2008 with the critically acclaimed comedy, Mid-August Lunch. A semi-autobiographical tale about a middle-aged bachelor living with his elderly mother, the film saw Di Gregorio taking on the lead role in addition to writing and directing, and earned him a host of plaudits, including Best First Feature at the London Film Festival. His breakthrough assured, Di Gregorio chose to remain in familiar territory for his next feature, The Salt of Life, a quasi-sequel / reimagining of Mid-August Lunch about a retired Italian man looking for one last romantic adventure.
I never got around to seeing Mid-August Lunch myself, so at this point I should probably say that those of you who enjoyed Di Gregorio’s first outing will likely find more of the same with The Salt of Life. At least, that’s what the majority of reviews seem to indicate anyway. For me however, I can’t honestly say I found much entertainment in The Salt of Life; perhaps it’s because I’m a newcomer, or maybe I’m still thirty years away from being able to fully appreciate all it has to offer, but I struggled to engage with the film on a number of levels and I’ll certainly not be seeking out its predecessor.
I’m not saying The Salt of Life is a bad film – it’s not, and obviously it’s going to have its appeal. Sure, Di Gregorio delivers a strong performance as ‘Gianni’, and yeah, he’s a kind-hearted old guy struggling to come to terms with the ever-increasing number of candles on his birthday cake. I can see the charm in that, but the whole plot about a sixty-year-old guy seeking a younger mistress came off as a bit creepy to me at times. Is he really a kindly old gentleman, or is he a raging sex pest? I mean, there he is, burnt out by the demands of his overbearing wife, posing as helpful neighbour or successful wine connoisseur in order to get into the pants of a succession of women, many of whom are probably a third of his age. I have to say I actually felt relieved for some of the women when they passed on his advances, especially with the way he was looking at them. God only knows what he was planning. Still, I guess we shouldn’t expect any better from a country that’s had randy old Silvio Berlusconi as its Prime Minister for the best part of the last two decades.
Joking aside, the main problem I had with The Salt of Life is that for a comedy, there really aren’t too many laughs on offer, and even when there’s a moment of humour, it’s more like a slight-twitch-of-the-lip, “aww isn’t that old man nice” type of smile, rather than out-and-out belly laughs. The film moves at a snail’s pace, with Gianni moving from one woman to the next without ever really getting anywhere. It soon runs out of steam, while the dulcet tones of the soundtrack nearly had me dozing off on a number of occasions. The fact that this music accompanies almost every single scene in the movie made things even worse, and I think I’ve been hearing violins and accordions in my sleep ever since.
As I said near the beginning of this review, if you enjoyed Mid-August Lunch, give The Salt of Life a try. If you haven’t seen Mid-August Lunch, but you’re approaching your twilight years yourself and really want to give your sexy young Italian neighbour a good old-fashioned rogering before you shuffle off this mortal coil, then give The Salt of Life a try. If not, then maybe you ought to wait a few more years before you check this out.
Holy Franchise, Batman! - Coming 2012.