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REVIEWS The Salt Of Life REVIEWED BY LEE MARSHALL


Breaking no new ground but delighting its audi- ence nevertheless, Gianni Di Gregorio’s follow-up to his surprise hit Mid-August Lunch sees the writer-director reprising the mild-mannered age- ing Roman mamma’s-boy character from that film. This time, he is required not to look after four old ladies but to prove he’s still got what it takes by finding himself a lover. Though at first it feels a little inconsequential, this humane comedy is given depth by the vein of melancholy and poetic longing which runs through its gentle comic- sketch structure. Like Nanni Moretti or Woody Allen, Di Gregorio


mines his own long-suffering face and character for comedy, and he has such sympathetic presence and charm that he can probably run for a few more films before we start demanding more of a story. Unlike Lunch, which built on word-of-mouth


buzz from small beginnings, The Salt Of Life (Gianni E Le Donne) will benefit from a slick mar- keting campaign and healthy rollout on its Febru- ary 11 Italian release, and should at least match its pre decessor’s broad arthouse reach on home ground.


Distributors elsewhere may worry about the


déja-vu factor; arguing against this is the film’s easy charm, sure comic instinct and colourful Roman-ness. For northern audiences, The Salt Of Life will get under the skin of a certain Mediterra-


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It. 2011. 88mins Director Gianni Di Gregorio Production companies BiBi Film, Isaria Productions, Rai Cinema International sales Fandango Portobello, sales @fandangoportobello.com Producer Angelo Barbagallo Screenplay Gianni Di Gregorio, Valerio Attanasio Cinematography Gian Enrico Bianchi Production designer Susanna Cascella Editor Marco Spoletini Music Ratchev & Carratello Main cast Gianni Di Gregorio, Valeria de Franciscis Bendoni, Alfonso Santagata, Elisabetta Piccolomini, Valeria Cavalli, Aylin Prandi, Kristina Cepraga, Michelangelo Ciminale, Teresa Di Gregorio


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nean male psyche and post-dolce vita lifestyle in a way which is both funny, poignant, life-enhancing and much cheaper than a return ticket to Italy. The casual dramatic hook is the weak point of


the script. After an amusing scene in a notary pub- lic’s office in which downtrodden Roman flaneur Gianni (Di Gregorio) tries to sell his elderly moth- er’s house from under her nose, the 60-something househusband is told by his lawyer friend Alfonso (Santagata) — a propos of not very much — that he should have an affair. Just about every man you see has a lover, Alfonso tells him — even the old guy who sits outside the bar all day is on squeezing terms with the tobacconist’s wife. The rest of the film follows Gianni’s fumbling


attempts to act on Alfonso’s advice, in between running errands for his busy working wife (Pic- colomini), taking the huge dog of his vivacious young neighbour (Prandi) for walkies, and field- ing the incessant calls and demands of his mother (the redoubtable, and hilarious, 96-year-old Vale- ria de Franciscis Bendoni, who also played Gian- ni’s mother in Mid-August Lunch). It is the everyday realism and quietness of the


comedy that wins us round in the end, plus the refusal to opt for a neat ending: Gianni’s life is, to use an Italian phrase, una vitarella — a ‘life-ette’ — but, as with all the best comic masks, his bitter- sweet way of living says something profound about the human condition.


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