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After Mid August Lunch, another little great movie by Di Gregorio. In this second film, the mise-en-scene has become more mature, as also the structure of the script. The realism of the acting and dialogs are the same of Mid August Lunch, giving freshness and comic reliefs to the story. The plot is about a 60 years old man who suddenly understands he's become "transparent" for women, simply they don't look at him in "that certain way" anymore. But this is the surface of the movie, the funny "hook" of the storyline. What really matters to Di Gregorio is something else, something deeper, related to the loneliness of a man facing old age. So sometimes the film takes a different way, turning from the comedy for a moment, with beautiful flashes of melancholy and bittersweet fatalism which reach levels of great cinema. The Salt of Life suggest the birth of a new author.
Some critics blamed this film for being a failed Italian comedy. For sure, supposing the aim of Gianni Di Gregorio (the director-writer-main actor) had been to make one, "Gianni e le donne" would not have hit the mark: it is indeed neither hilarious nor cruel enough to be a true successor of Risi, Scola, Monicelli and company. The reason why they criticized this movie simply lies in the fact that they had decided in advance that, with a title like "Gianni e le donne", the film was to be a new "I mostri" or "Il sorpasso" and they did not watch it for what it really was. By way of example, Gianni, the central character, has nothing to do with the "monsters" played by Gassman or Sordi. He is actually a genial retired man, well liked by his neighbors (a little too much, to tell the truth, as they tend to somewhat take advantage of his kindness). He is no seducer and if the title is "Gianni and the Women", the blame is to be put on his friend Alfonso, a sixty-odd-year-old lawyer who urges him to have mistresses to stay in the race. According to him, all the males over sixty, except Gianni, get laid with a younger woman, which, in addition to living life to the full, keeps them from becoming old hats. Gianni, the kind of man who goes with the flow, complies, even if halfheartedly, just like he obeys his capricious old mother whenever she rings for him, exactly the way he walks his downstairs neighbor's dog, etc. The good man will thus be seen trying his luck with several women: Kristina, his mother's sexy personal nurse ; the divorced daughter of one of his mother's friends ; one of a pair of attractive twins... With a level of success proportional to his lack of motivation! So, if you accept the idea that Gianni is not a Gassman or Manfredi-like monster, if you do not expect any graphic or even crazy sex (as the title could imply), you will doubtless enjoy "Gianni e le donne". For, what you will get instead is far from uninteresting, namely a relevant slice of life in today's Italy, containing an implicit criticism of its current defects (Gianni's future son-in-law who, as he does not find work, does not try to find any ; the pervasiveness of sex in everyday life ; the cult of youth tyranny) ; a leisurely rhythm similar to the pace of real life ; discreet smiles rather than big laughs. And if you value such qualities, you will not feel let down because of an incorrect supposition. Gianni Di Gregorio plays with talent this ordinary man who, through the misadventures he goes through, starts questioning himself about the meaning of his life and about the coming of old age. He can even move the unprejudiced viewer, without overplaying, in fine touches that, by an accumulation effect, add to the truthfulness of the character. In a way, Gianni Di Gregorio in this movie appears as a distant cousin - older and less eccentric - of Jean-Pierre Léaud in François Truffaut's "Domicile conjugal" As good as him, but in a more outlandish style, is the excellent Valeria De Franciscis, playing Gianni's rich and selfish mother. The rest of the cast fulfills its task to perfection. Viewing "Gianni e le donne" proves a very satisfying experience. Pleasant and thought-provoking, this comedy proves one more time that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Italian cinema is not dead.
Saw - and enjoyed - this Italian comedy drama recently at our local
Arts Centre film club. This rich slice of late middle aged Gianni's
(Gianni de Gregorio, who is also the film's director) life is one of
being ignored by his wife, avoiding his eccentric mother and being
jealous of all his friends who seem to still have what it takes with
Modestly staged, filmed mostly in one cramped town house and with a script that seems at times to be ad-libbed, there's a certain enthusiasm about it all, a relish for life and one of wishing for the finer things in life.
Subsequently, he tries to chat up the ladies but the smallest of obstacles upset his plans, including his mother's thirst for innocent (but costly) gambling with her friends. One of the comedic highlights is when Gianni is told that a little blue pill is all he needs for an invigorated love life - and he doesn't realise exactly how that might come about. It's tastefully done, I have to add!
Seemably using much the same cast as he did with 'Mid August Lunch' Di Gregorio keeps it 'in the family', low key and undoubtedly, cheap.
This little film won't pick up the awards at Cannes and can seem just a little disorganised, but its quiet charm warmed over all that went to see it, including me. Recommended as something a little different and not too heavy, not too long either - suitable for the older generation, too. Also, a good alternative to a trashy rom-com if you're renting.
I loved Mid August Lunch and like this movie even more. De Gregorio
creates fun light "plights of daily living" comedies. They are
entertaining fun and enjoyable.
In this movie Gregorio (who writes directs and is the protagonist in these movies) is having a mid life crisis...he has retired and thinks his life will become fuller if he takes on a mistress---he finds out unbelievably that a much older man who sits with his friends out on the street in front of his house has done this very thing. Of course he is thwarted in this quest and that is where the humor lies.
This is wonderful light amusing life situation comedy.
This movie is actually a little slicker and better filmed than Mid August Lunch the story a little more involved.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Salt Of Life" is a delightful, absurdist, male menopause comedy. Gianni (Gianni Di Gregorio) is a 60 year old retiree with a libido that has gone into hyperdrive. He gets no gratification from his condescending wife who berates him for wasting his pension on frivolous expenditures. He also shares living space with an apathetic college age daughter and her no-account boyfriend who lolls away the day eating and reading the paper. His mother Valeria (Valeria De Franciscis) lives in a small villa where she treats Gianni like a servant summoning him when the TV goes on the fritz. His daily recreation consists of walking the dog and ogling the opposite sex. The elderly men he observes roosting on the sidewalk are a foreshadowing of a future he dreads and makes him all the more determined to rekindle his sex life. Actor, director and co-screenwriter Gianni Di Gregorio gives a totally authentic and wonderfully funny performance. "The Salt Of Life" is a nice piece of escapist entertainment. A hilarious 90 minute diversion. I hated to see it end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Gianni Di Gregorio wrote, directed, and starred in this Italian film,
where he portrays a man who once forced into retirement finds himself
being taken advantage of by his horribly domineering and manipulative
mother, as well as his wife who believes that since he has time on his
hands he should be able to complete a to-do list each day.
When he sees his friends and even an elderly neighbor, who sits downstairs all day, garner younger lovers he tries in his laid back gentlemanly way to do the same but never seems to get to first base.
I found the strength of the film was in its' subtle humor, the sensuality of many Italian beauties, and a colorful look at the richness of Italian society. I came away from the film wishing I was there.
Being someone of a similar age, & in a vaguely similar situation, I
felt very sympathetic to the central character. But it just wasn't
enough. I love gentle, wry comedy, 50s films such as The Ladykillers
being among my favourites, but there was always something else,
something more darkly comic & sardonic going on beneath the surface of
This was a pleasant film, but slight in the extreme; full of commonplaces, all performed with a sigh & a shrug of the shoulders, his friend was a stereotype, so were the girls, he seemed to have no real interest in anything. The only thing which made me laugh was the wheel spinning nuns. And I really couldn't see the significance of the ending.
There are worse ways to kill a couple of hours, but life, as the lead character evidently knows, is far too short for that!
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