Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: The Salt of Life

A timeless comedy about aging, for all ages.

March 1, 2012

-By Natasha Senjanovic


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1315158-Salt_Life_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

In his sophomore outing, 62-year-old Gianni Di Gregorio proves that the delicate touch and comic understatement of his acclaimed 2008 directorial debut, Mid-August Lunch, were anything but beginner's luck. In The Salt of Life, the actor-writer-director again plays his own alter ego, and gives us another deceptively small, vaguely autobiographical story with universal resonance, in more technically assured packaging.

The film's Italian title (Gianni and the Women) and domestic trailer give the idea of yet another local comedy (or newspaper headline) about lusty old men chasing busty young women. Happily, the ambling, quietly contemplative The Salt of Life is nothing of the kind.
The same broad art-house audience that gushed over by Mid-August Lunch will eat up Salt, which resembles the first in tone but doesn't just cash in on a lucky formula. The added spice—more secondary characters, more melancholic chords—shows Di Gregorio's maturation as a filmmaker, and despite the casual, vérité atmosphere, there's nothing arbitrary in this wistful ode to women by a man who's becoming invisible to them. Especially not the casting.

Most of the actors play characters of their same name and whether they were chosen first or had parts written specifically for them, there's not a miscast one in the bunch. They all easily pull laughs from the deadpan dialogue, Di Gregorio most of all. He has the kind of innate comic timing that elicits chuckles even when he literally does nothing, and he's unafraid to bare himself—wrinkles, puffy eyes and all.

He again plays a character named Gianni, a variation on his previous protagonist. This Gianni is a 60-year-old pensioner who lives in a spacious apartment with a college-age daughter (Teresa Di Gregorio) who pities him and an amicable wife (Elisabetta Piccolomini) who hasn't shared his bed in years. With little to do, and a meager pension to do it with, the mildly ambitious Gianni tends to the household chores and his women, including a beautiful young neighbor (Aylin Prandi) who's always flirting with him, though only half-seriously.

That's the problem, Gianni tells his friend Alfonso (Alfonso Santagata), a lawyer forever looking to score: Women just don't notice him anymore, "not in that way."

Gianni's biggest burden in life is his demanding and wealthy widowed mother (delightfully petty nonagenarian Valeria de Franciscis Bendoni, who also played Di Gregorio's mother in Mid-August Lunch). He's at her beck and call, and she calls often, even though she won't help him financially yet showers her Romanian caretaker (Kristina Cepraga) with designer clothes and overstocks her fridge with pricey champagne. No one in the family can stand Grandma, even Gianni's high-school sweetheart thinks his mother is the reason they never married, but Gianni can't get out from under her thumb.

After Kristina compares him to her grandfather and he discovers that one of the "crusty old guys" from his neighborhood bar has a lover, Gianni realizes he's desperate for some companionship and adventure—but it may be too late to do anything about it. Like in his previous film, Di Gregorio's main character is a man entering his twilight years who has, for better or for worse, always been at the mercy of women. Yet whether they're strong, silly, manipulative or justifiably exhausted by Gianni's inexhaustible submission to his mamma, they're also magnificently elusive to him.

The director casts a knowing, and forgiving, gaze at the passing of time with the lightest of touches, without recrimination for any his characters. And with a bittersweet ending that doesn't pander to expectations but still feels hopeful.

Teresa Di Gregorio as Gianni's daughter, and Michelangelo Criminale as her slacker boyfriend are particularly good in a cast that features strong performances all around.

The core technical crew is the same as Mid-August Lunch and they're obviously working with bigger budgets. Especially director of photography Gogo Bianchi, whose photography is far more polished than their grainy first film together. Veteran editor Marco Spoletini often uses the scene changes to set up or deliver punch lines without becoming tiresome, and the score by Ratchev and Carratello is again unobtrusively playful.
The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: The Salt of Life

A timeless comedy about aging, for all ages.

March 1, 2012

-By Natasha Senjanovic


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1315158-Salt_Life_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

In his sophomore outing, 62-year-old Gianni Di Gregorio proves that the delicate touch and comic understatement of his acclaimed 2008 directorial debut, Mid-August Lunch, were anything but beginner's luck. In The Salt of Life, the actor-writer-director again plays his own alter ego, and gives us another deceptively small, vaguely autobiographical story with universal resonance, in more technically assured packaging.

The film's Italian title (Gianni and the Women) and domestic trailer give the idea of yet another local comedy (or newspaper headline) about lusty old men chasing busty young women. Happily, the ambling, quietly contemplative The Salt of Life is nothing of the kind.
The same broad art-house audience that gushed over by Mid-August Lunch will eat up Salt, which resembles the first in tone but doesn't just cash in on a lucky formula. The added spice—more secondary characters, more melancholic chords—shows Di Gregorio's maturation as a filmmaker, and despite the casual, vérité atmosphere, there's nothing arbitrary in this wistful ode to women by a man who's becoming invisible to them. Especially not the casting.

Most of the actors play characters of their same name and whether they were chosen first or had parts written specifically for them, there's not a miscast one in the bunch. They all easily pull laughs from the deadpan dialogue, Di Gregorio most of all. He has the kind of innate comic timing that elicits chuckles even when he literally does nothing, and he's unafraid to bare himself—wrinkles, puffy eyes and all.

He again plays a character named Gianni, a variation on his previous protagonist. This Gianni is a 60-year-old pensioner who lives in a spacious apartment with a college-age daughter (Teresa Di Gregorio) who pities him and an amicable wife (Elisabetta Piccolomini) who hasn't shared his bed in years. With little to do, and a meager pension to do it with, the mildly ambitious Gianni tends to the household chores and his women, including a beautiful young neighbor (Aylin Prandi) who's always flirting with him, though only half-seriously.

That's the problem, Gianni tells his friend Alfonso (Alfonso Santagata), a lawyer forever looking to score: Women just don't notice him anymore, "not in that way."

Gianni's biggest burden in life is his demanding and wealthy widowed mother (delightfully petty nonagenarian Valeria de Franciscis Bendoni, who also played Di Gregorio's mother in Mid-August Lunch). He's at her beck and call, and she calls often, even though she won't help him financially yet showers her Romanian caretaker (Kristina Cepraga) with designer clothes and overstocks her fridge with pricey champagne. No one in the family can stand Grandma, even Gianni's high-school sweetheart thinks his mother is the reason they never married, but Gianni can't get out from under her thumb.

After Kristina compares him to her grandfather and he discovers that one of the "crusty old guys" from his neighborhood bar has a lover, Gianni realizes he's desperate for some companionship and adventure—but it may be too late to do anything about it. Like in his previous film, Di Gregorio's main character is a man entering his twilight years who has, for better or for worse, always been at the mercy of women. Yet whether they're strong, silly, manipulative or justifiably exhausted by Gianni's inexhaustible submission to his mamma, they're also magnificently elusive to him.

The director casts a knowing, and forgiving, gaze at the passing of time with the lightest of touches, without recrimination for any his characters. And with a bittersweet ending that doesn't pander to expectations but still feels hopeful.

Teresa Di Gregorio as Gianni's daughter, and Michelangelo Criminale as her slacker boyfriend are particularly good in a cast that features strong performances all around.

The core technical crew is the same as Mid-August Lunch and they're obviously working with bigger budgets. Especially director of photography Gogo Bianchi, whose photography is far more polished than their grainy first film together. Veteran editor Marco Spoletini often uses the scene changes to set up or deliver punch lines without becoming tiresome, and the score by Ratchev and Carratello is again unobtrusively playful.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Citizenfour
Film Review: Citizenfour

Documentary account of how Edward Snowden leaked intelligence to the world press. More »

Glen Campbell I'll Be Me
Film Review: Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me

Alzheimer's is given an unforgettably human face here, and that face belongs to a music legend. More »

White Bird in a Blizzard
Film Review: White Bird in a Blizzard

A clichéd indie about a girl’s coming-of-age amidst her mother’s disappearance that, despite a sturdy lead performance by Shailene Woodley, is undone by hackneyed, go-nowhere plotting. More »

Exists
Film Review: Exists

Blair Witch Project co-director Eduardo Sanchez returns to the faux-found footage well and hauls out a bucketful of Bigfoot in this derivative but creepy shocker. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

John Wick
Film Review: John Wick

Retired hit man seeks revenge on Russian mob in an above-average action film. More »

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here