The Salt of Life
Directed by Gianni Di Gregorio
Now, in The Salt of Life, it seems that Gianni never followed that advice. Or rather, it's hard to not read this follow-up film in that light. It is not necessarily a sequel, and some of the characters are not necessarily identical. Moreover, the quite different English title for the film is here a mere matter of convenience; the original Italian title is Gianni e le donne, which one might more directly render as Gianni and The Women. Yet whether the continuities from one film to the other are actually saline or simply salient, they are, indeed, striking. And both tales become all the more enjoyable as a result.
Whereas Gianni, in the earlier film, allows himself to be casually swindled into taking care of a motley crew of old women over the course of a summer holiday, this time he's surrounded by women of all ages, sizes, shapes and types, and he places himself in their midst a bit more voluntarily. But let there be no mistake: This is definitively not Di Gregorio's 8 1/2; Gianni is neither as fantastically lusted after nor as tragicomic as Guido. Di Gregorio, rather, projects himself as a ridiculous figure of pathetically failed Felliniana, a man who answers to the becks and calls of the women around him, offering himself up for bellhop-like exploitation by all, but who somehow remains to them, in his mind, "invisible." So his mother, Valeria (Valeria de Franciscis Bendoni, who played his mother in Mid-August Lunch, and whose maxillofacial impossibility now has an impossible tan, too), rings him at will to busy him with her trifles or to fix her television; his wife sends him on errands but hardly notices him otherwise; his daughter half-seeks his advice by advising herself, then saying, "no?"; he walks his comely neighbor's dog for pecks on the cheek, though she generally casts him aside.
At the same time, Gianni hardly presents himself as bold or vigorous. For the most part, he goes through motions, and he's most engaged when drinking wine or sleeping. Indeed, aside from the superficial excitement he expresses when acquiescing to someone's commands—"sì sì, certo!" "che piacere!" "bellissimo!" and "meraviglioso!" comically litter the script—his visage remains ever unchanged. He bumbles along, often with his dog, through beautiful homes and streets in a beautifully sunny, lush Rome. As he catches glimpses here and there of such splendor and antiquity through less reverent than boozily ambivalent eyes, Gianni perhaps wonders if his personally overdone "salting" of life through drinking, indolence and self-indulgence might harbor a sense of patrimonial decadence as well. For though he might have difficulty dealing with the donne encircling him, he often finds himself sharing paths with many other old men, too—some of whom are regularly at work fixing up an old Fiat.
The Salt of Life is full of laughs and shots of tits and ass, yet much like Mid-August Lunch, it's imbued with deeper poignancy as well. Overdoing the salt of life can spoil the spice, or something along those lines, so maybe heed the occasional warning or two. But the pixie-dust ending will leave you smiling all the same, and likely singing an unexpected tune.
Opens March 2