'The Salt of Life': Gentle tale about aging among beauties of Rome
A movie review of "The Salt of Life," an appealing, sympathetic comedy about a Roman pensioner who spends his days longing for his city's beguiling women and wondering what happened to his youthful vitality. Gianni Di Gregorio stars and directs.
Special to The Seattle Times
'The Salt of Life,' with Gianni Di Gregorio, Valeria de Franciscis Bendoni, Elisabetta Piccolomini, Michelangelo Ciminale, Teresa Di Gregorio. Directed by Gianni Di Gregorio, from a screenplay by Di Gregorio and Valerio Attanasio. 90 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains sexual and other adult themes). Seven Gables.
Before a man becomes a man of a certain age, he's warned about declining health and retirement planning. What nobody tells him is he'll soon feel both faintly ridiculous in a changing world and, oh, by the way, invisible to women.
That's the unnerving situation for "The Salt of Life's" tragicomic hero, Gianni (played by the film's 63-year-old director, Gianni Di Gregorio), a pensioner in his 50s. With little to do but cater to the expensive whims of his imperious mother (a savvy turn by 96-year-old actress Valeria de Franciscis Bendoni), Gianni wonders what happened to his appeal and vitality in a Rome ripe, as ever in Italian cinema, with voluptuous beauties.
A follow-up to Di Gregorio's thematically similar "Mid-August Lunch" (2010), "The Salt of Life" finds gentle comedy in the dilemma of a still warm-blooded if sexually marginalized fellow for whom kindness is second nature and lecherousness is alien.
Stuck in a platonic relationship with his wife (Elisabetta Piccolomini) and reluctantly befriending the slacker boyfriend (Michelangelo Ciminale) of his daughter (the director's real-life offspring, Teresa Di Gregorio), Gianni drifts along, making emergency runs to adjust his mother's television.
Yet his days, as captured by Di Gregorio's appreciative camera, are filled with longing for his city's beguiling women. Gianni finds little consolation with lovely friends — including a neighboring party girl and an old flame — who appreciate him with unspoken wistfulness but see him as a ghost.
Di Gregorio has a sympathetic and hangdog-funny presence throughout. But he becomes something more in the film's final scene, an unsettling visual fantasia capturing the creeping disorientation to life that comes, inexorably, with time.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org