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The Salt Of Life

The Salt Of Life

By Frances Taylor • April 15th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Artificial Eye

Release date: December 5th 2011
Certificate (UK): 12
Running time: 90 minutes

Country of origin: Italy
Original language: Italian with English subtitles

Director: Gianni di Gregorio
Writers: Gianni di Gregorio, Valerio Attanasio

Cast: Gianni di Gregorio, Valeria De Franciscis, Alfonso Santagata

Ageing is inevitable. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives; the decisions we make in our youth become the decisions we’ve made for the rest of our days.

There’s a lot of pressure to have fulfilling careers, healthy relationships, a bustling social life and ambitions out of your ears. Sometimes it’s easier to just tap out for a while, to go with the flow, and let others make the decisions.

Time goes all too quickly, and before we know it, we could be unhappy just like Gianni (Gianni di Gregorio).

He is 60 years old, retired, and upset about the bags under his eyes. His mother (Valeria di Franciscis Bendoni) is domineering and demanding, his marriage seems more platonic than erotic, and he is slowly realising he is invisible to the younger women he is so sorely attracted to. Everyone else in his life is calling the shots, and Gianni seems to lack the nerve to stand up for himself.

Salt Of Life

He spends his days at his mother’s back and call, walking his sexy neighbour’s Saint Bernard, and hanging out with his friend Alfonso (Alfonso Santagata). Alfonso hits on young beauties and suggests that Gianni takes on a younger lover too; it’s what all the Italian gents are doing, apparently.

The Salt of Life takes a bittersweet look at life once you get past a certain age, when you lack something of an aim or purpose, and people are only nice to you if they want something. In Gianni, di Gregorio shows us how wonderful the world can be, and how disheartening it can be to feel left out of it.

His crisis is a quiet one in a way, and never really quite gains momentum. That’s not to say that the film is boring, quite the contrary. Gianni can never quite get things started. He fails at catching the bartender’s attention, saying “thank you” three times to her before giving up. He wears a suit on a date, though that doesn’t help him any. On another, a nap on the couch scuppers any chance of a physical connection. He asks an old flame Valeria (Valeria Cavalli) why he never married her, she replies it is because he is an idiot.

Salt Of Life

The Salt of Life showed that even if you’re young at heart and willing in spirit, the body just can’t keep up or no one wants it anyway.

“I had a dream about you last night,” Kristina (Kristina Cepraga) tells him. Oh yeah? “I dreamt you were my grandfather.” Oh…

Gianni dabbles in accepting and not-accepting his impending old age. He’s not quite ready to sit on plastic chairs outside diners with the old-timers and chat football. He tries it one time, and Aylin (Aylin Prandi) wraps her arms around his neck and asks him what he’s doing with them, though she won’t sleep with him either.

The film is shot sumptuously, the colours saturated, the light bright, and the world like a picture. We’re treated to euphemistic shots of fizzing champagne bottles and ripe red cherries. The women that Gianni cannot touch are alluring, and a third his age. They wear short dresses and toss their hair as though teasing him with a display of what he can never have again, and freeze him out. Their world is no longer his.

Salt Of Life

Of course, this can apply to us all, not just those who are getting older. Di Gregorio taps into the inadequacies we all feel; like there’s a better party happening somewhere else, but we haven’t been invited.

I felt sad thinking about Gianni’s missed chances, all of the things he has never done, and will never do. I have many years to go before I can think of retiring, but after watching The Salt of Life I felt like I had to buck up and really do something with myself.

The Salt of Life was light, warm, and humorous. It had a big heart, which softened the niggle that we’re all wasting our youths, and then trying to recapture them later when it’s almost hopeless to do so. The world is a beautiful place, and we need to make the most of it whilst we can.

Frances Taylor

Frances Taylor

Frances likes words and pictures, regardless of media. She finds great comfort and escape in film, and is attracted to anything character-driven with a strong story. Through these stories, she will find meaning in the world. Three movies that Frances thinks are really good for this are You and Me and Everyone We Know (Miranda July), I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK (Chan-Wook Park), and How I Ended This Summer (Alexei Popogrebsky).

When Frances grows up, she would like to write words and make pictures and have cool people recognise her on the street and tell her that they really enjoy her work.

She can be found overreacting and over-caffeinated on Twitter @penny_face, a childhood moniker from her grandmother owing to her gloriously round face.

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