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Gianni und die Frauen (The Salt of Life, Gianni e le donne)
Italy 2010

Opening 22 Sep 2011

Directed by: Gianni Di Gregorio
Writing credits: Gianni Di Gregorio, Valerio Attanasio
Principal actors: Gianni Di Gregorio, Valeria De Franciscis, Alfonso Santagata, Elisabetta Piccolomini, Valeria Cavalli

Sixty-year-old Gianni is an early retiree. He lives with his wife and grown daughter, who both work, in an apartment house in Rome. After the girls have left for work, Gianni often lingers at the breakfast table with his daughter’s boyfriend; he also lives with them and seems to be unemployed without any ambition to change the status quo. Gianni then walks his (and his neighbor’s) dog and goes grocery shopping. He is modest and unassuming, the exact opposite of his elderly mother who lives in the family villa. She spends money without restraint, dresses fashionably, invites her friends over for good food and card games, allows her young live-in companion to spoil her, and, in spite of having every need fulfilled, telephones her son regularly to make new demands on his time and love. Still, Gianni is happy in his selfless world of small chores and no hobbies, until his friend Alfonso points out that a man his age should be enjoying the best years of his life, i.e., affairs with younger women to steam up the windows of satisfaction. Naturally, because he always does what others suggest, Gianni tries to follow Alfonso’s advice. He takes Viagra and pays more than superficial attention to women around him (all of whom seem to have their bosoms hanging out of their clothing – is this typical Italian?). But nothing really changes and why should it? Basically Gianni has already found his niche.

I wonder how autobiographical the film is. Written and directed by Gianni Di Gregorio, age 62, he also stars in the role of Gianni – which makes it almost a one-man show. The film is slow and seems to have no real purpose. We lose patience with attempts to change Gianni, and why try: he seems happy with his situation, even if outsiders will think it boring or, worse, unbearable. This is supposed to be a comedy, and perhaps the viewers who will most appreciate the efforts of Di Gregorio’s filming will be elderly, single women, who would recognize Gianni’s good qualities and appreciate him as he is. Valeria De Francisis (born in 1915!) is a real pistol as the aged mother; she is excellent and keeps us awake throughout a slow film that doesn’t get off the ground. (Becky Tan)

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