The Big Screen
3:00 am
Sun August 19, 2012

Review: The Salt of Life

A few years back, Gianni Di Gregorio made a nice little film called Mid-August Lunch. Now that it’s mid-August again, here comes his follow-up feature, The Salt of Life. It’s not quite as good, but still may provide a nice summertime diversion if you’re looking for something other than the latest blockbuster or a kids movie.

The Salt of Life is basically a male menopause dramedy. Gianni is sixty, and has been retired for a decade. He’s married and has a daughter, played by his own real-life daughter. Obviously the relationship with his wife has cooled considerably as they have separate bedrooms. He also has a 96-year-old mother, who must have some decent money, but also throws it away by the handfuls without giving a thought to the future. Not to mention, she keeps Gianni on a short leash, and has him hopping whenever she needs something…lunch served to her afternoon poker group, the antenna on the television moved a half-inch to improve the picture quality, and on and on.

Gianni’s lawyer, and best friend, is always encouraging him to seek some extracurricular social activity to brighten up his life. Gianni is willing, but none of the lovely ladies he approaches take him seriously. What’s a guy to do?

True to the filmmaker’s low budget approach, Gianni is played by Gianni Di Gregorio, who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay shot in his own apartment in Rome and in other actual locations, and peppers the cast with friends and relatives in order to keep the budget low. And it’s not all travelogue scenery. Gianni’s neighborhood is covered in graffiti.

The Salt of Life is a nice blend of funny, sad, and wistful, but finds time to offer a few comments about contemporary Italian life, such as employment, or the lack of it; sex, or the lack of it; and how the older folks feel at the mercy of the current youth cult. Gee…almost sounds rather American, doesn’t it?

While the film does have its faults, and a rather lackadaisical pace, it still manages to keep the viewer’s interest in how Gianni will cope with his problems, both real and perceived.

Gianni Di Gregorio reminds me of an Italian Woody Allen, in that he wears all the hats in the production, and plays the older guy with an eye for younger ladies. Here’s hoping he can channel all that into one day coming up with a film that might equal something from the Woodman’s repertoire.

The unrated The Salt of Life opened this past Friday at the Mariemont Theatre.