The Salt of Life.

Gianni daydream!

What has a gentle Italian movie about a depressed middle aged man, who looks after his 90 year old mother and three additional old women in a shabby fourth floor flat in a deserted small town during the mid August holiday period, and the award winning Gomorrah(2008) a film about organised crime in Naples? Gianni Di Gregorio the co-screenwriter of this violent true to life gangster movie is the director, screenwriter, central character and provider of the previously mentioned shabby fourth floor flat in 2008s Mid August Lunch. Gregorio plays Gianni unemployed cash strapped bachelor in his late 50’s whose vocation in life consists of taking care of his wrinkled but sprightly old mother. His meagre pleasures consist of smoking, drinking copious amounts of wine and cooking. Life gets complicated when both the administrator of the building and his Doctor make it financially worth while for him to look after their elderly relatives for a short period of time during the August holidays. This warm genuine film treats the subject of old age sympathetically and provides us, the audience, with a gently entertaining light-hearted movie.

Back to real life....
The success of his directorial debut made it a lot easier for Gianni Di Gregorio to finance his follow-up movie The Salt of Life (2011) again a film that successfully deals with some of life’s small everyday problems. As in his previous film Gregorio plays a character called Gianni, a 64 year-old retiree who like many people his age has become translucent to others and has a problem coming to terms with his age and the fact that women no longer look at him. This frightening realisation came to the director who wrote his latest story to exorcise and make light of this ‘tragedy’ realising that one of the only vice’s left to him was voyeurism! But this is only one of Gianni’s problems! He is part of the first generation to reach retirement age and still have parents alive therefore there’s constant demands on him from his aristocratic spendthrift mother (played again by the 95 year-old Valeria de Franciscis Bendoni) who seems hell bent on disposing of her sons much needed inheritance; a wife who is more of a patronizing friend than a romantic partner; a daughter with a slacker boyfriend whom Gianni unwillingly befriends; and a wild young neighbor who sees him merely as her dog walker. But our frustrated retiree is determined to ensnare a beautiful younger woman and romance her on the sun-drenched streets of Trastevere.

Teresa's slacker boyfriend may not be the right person to advise Gianni on his fitness regime.

Again we have a warm and witty portrayal of old age where no matter how polite and gracious you are, your just not going to pull! The key scene is where Gianni goes to a bar with his friend and speaks to the attractive lady behind the bar and gets no response what so ever, not even a smile (its surprising how even a wee smile from a lady can make the day of a gentlemen of a certain age!) This autobiographical story takes a lot of things from Di Gregorio’s own life including the his own daughter Teresa who plays his on screen daughter, the small black dog which is his own animal and even the filming took place where he used to live.

A man's best friend is his wild young neighbour's dog.

A lot of this films genuine warmth comes from the use of natural lighting and the non-use of filters, improvisation with the actors encouraged to act out the sense of the scene rather than a precise script and storyboard. The cast where chosen for there strong personalities and there likeness to their on screen characters. The contempory mix of the films soundtrack, which includes a lovely touch of gypsy music, is used to underscore the sense and feeling of Di Gregorio’s story.  I would certainly recommend this very agreeable film, if you missed it on its initial release its now available on DVD. 

Gianni with the 95 year old Valeria de Franciscus who plays his mother.