The Salt Of Life (Gianna E Le Donne) (12A)

The ViewNewcastle Review

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Review byMatthew Turner11/08/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Warmly directed, superbly written and featuring a terrific performance from Gianni Di Gregorio, this is an entertaining, frequently funny Italian comedy-drama that makes some sharply observed points and deserves to be as big an arthouse hit as the director's previous film, Mid-August Lunch.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Gianni Di Gregorio (Mid-August Lunch), The Salt of Life (not to be confused with The Tree of Life) stars Di Gregorio as Gianni, a married, sixty-something pensioner who we first meet attempting (and failing) to get power of attorney over his still quite sharp mother (Valeria de Franciscis Bendoni, the feisty old lady from Mid-August Lunch) so that he can sell her house. With his home life dominated by his hard-working wife and his ever-partying daughter, Gianni decides to try and have a sexual affair, inspired by both his lustful lawyer friend (Alfonso Santagata) and a local octogenarian who has somehow pulled the attractive tobacconist down the street.

Unfortunately, Gianni's attempts prove increasingly useless, whether it's drunkenly attempting to cop off with his mother's gorgeous nurse, embarking on a double-date with Alfonso and some fun-loving middle-aged twins (Laura and Silvia Squizzato) or looking up old girlfriends. At the same time, he holds out hope for his attractive, overly affectionate younger neighbour, whose dog he walks on a regular basis.

The Good
Di Gregorio is terrific as Gianni, a resigned but still frustrated character who handles rejection and disappointment with a world-weary shrug but keeps trying nonetheless. There's also terrific support from Valeria de Francisis Bendoni, who contributes another scene-stealing turn as Gianni's mother (though the relationship is notably different from their mother-son relationship in Mid-August Lunch).

As director, Di Gregorio gets the tone exactly right, ensuring that the film never becomes overly lecherous, despite frequent stolen glances at heaving cleavages or scantily-clad young women. He also orchestrates several very funny scenes – the dating sequences are beautifully observed and it's not hard to detect the influence of (early, funny) Woody Allen, circa Play It Again, Sam.

The Great
On top of that, the script is sharply written and makes some poignant observations about growing older and becoming increasingly invisible to younger members of the opposite sex, most notably when Gianni and Alfonso are trying to get served by an attractive barmaid in a nightclub. It also has a terrific final scene, which it would be churlish to spoil here, but suffice to say that the choice of accompanying music is nothing short of inspired.

Worth seeing?
Impressively directed and superbly written, The Salt of Life is a warmly funny, beautifully observed comedy-drama with a terrific central performance from Di Gregorio. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 24/07/2012 03:38

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