My year and a half living in sun-drenched Sorrento in Southern Italy were a fruitful, memorable and some of the best times of my life. I learned a lot from the Italians, how wonderful great hosts they can be also learning the way of life way different even from central/Northern Italy. In the south its more a “Piano Piano“, slowly, slowly way of life but the further north you went it became rapido, faster! In the centre of the country in Rome which is the base for Gianni Di Gregorio‘s THE SALT OF LIFE (Gianni Le Donne) our protagonist Gianni he certainly doesn’t know what way of life he wants.
Gianni is now retired, feels his life is in one big rut when at a point in his life he should be embracing it. His time he finds himself carrying chores for his demanding wife but also for his eccentric mother who’ll he’ll drop everything to serve her every whim.It’s also his own flesh and blood his daughter giving daddy a hard time whose having troubles with her in-house boyfriend making his life one big damp squib. Introduce Alfonso Gianni’s own friend who tries his best for a friend in need suggesting he lightening up go out have some fun  , and find life’s pleasures and get himself a girlfriend.
I’ll admit I haven’t seen Mid-August Lunch in its entirety but I’ve seen enough to appreciate Salt Of Life will feel like too many as if its an unread chapter from the first film rather than a sequel. What this film does do is expand on Gianni’s relationships with the women in his life which make him feel anything from joyful but most of all frustrated and stressed out. Ironically what it does remind me is of my time in Italy that most Italian men are charmers they think they are God’s gift to women no matter age or looks, the ladies love the exotic charm and I’ve seen some amusing ones. Whilst Gianni looks for that elusive female company you alway’s a wonder what his wife thinks of everything leaving you thinking ‘doesn’t she mind?’ or has she having fun on the side too?
Gianni is a daydreamer constantly spending his money on his mother’s expensive care home, whose pretty young carer whom Gianni admires spending his money too on designer clothes. The old boy even tries his luck with the young carer but he’s brought back down to earth when she tells him he was in her dreams, not as a lover but as her grandfather!His dream of something may happen still alive you could say are down to Alfonso’s flitry exaggerated manner making Gianni feel regretful and nice lunch bill to fork out as well!
The best parts of Salt of Life are the interactions between Gianni and his mother (played by Valeria De francisis) whose dry sense of wit and looking like a Carmen Miranda retired, finally deciding to eat the fruit bowl she had on her head for year, she is simply fantastic. She is the stereotypical Italian woman, abrasive at times but also kind and damn right funny.
Salt Of Life is an engaging charming film which is funny at times but never trying to be a comedy, more like the comedy/drama hybrid Woody Allen has been trying to re-create for many years. It’s like an examination of how men and women perceive each other especially in the Golden years, a bittersweet tale of attempting to rekindle the old magic when you should be embracing life.Gianni Di Gregorio’s directorial / writing style certainly proves that he is like an Italian Mike Leigh he reads domestic life perfectly making peoples daily woes into conventional entertainment.When I look out the window at the dreadful wintry weather then watch Salt of Life and admire the lazy summer I just wish I was back in Sorrento, I just say to myself ‘ lentamente lentamente Paul piace la vita non potrebbe mai succedere‘ – Slowly Slowly Paul enjoy life it may never happen!
Paul Devine | ★★★★
Comedy, Drama | Italy, 2011 | 12 | 5th December 2011 | Curzon Artificial Eye | Dir: Gianni Di Gregorio | Gianni Di Gregorio, Valeria De Franciscis ,Alfonso Santagata
Originally Posted at Cinehouse | 5th December 2011