28 August 2011

Giovanni Di Gregorio’s ‘The Salt of Life’

In 2008 Giovanni Di Gregorio directed and acted in Pranzo di ferragosto which was released a year later in the UK as Mid-August Lunch. The central characters were Gianni himself and his aged mother, played by Valeria De Franciscis who was making her acting debut at 93 (Di Gregorio is 62). The comical and charming story centres around hard-up Gianni, very much at mamma’s beck-and-call, having to organise a lunch for her and her equally aged friends in their apartment in central Rome. It was recently shown on BBC4 and is well worth seeing on DVD, if you can find it.

Earlier this year Di Gregorio’s new film, Gianni e le donne (lit: Gianni and the women), was released in Italy and has now appeared in the UK as The Salt of Life (why – there’s a mention of Himalayan salt?). This is a companion piece to Mid-August Lunch, rather than a sequel, perhaps it would have come off better as a comedy if it had been. This Gianni has a wife and daughter and his mother (De Franciscis again) is wealthy but alarmingly spendthrift. Just into early retirement, he can’t come to terms with becoming another old man in the street, and decides to start chasing after young women. Predictably he ends up making himself ridiculous and getting into scrapes, while being totally unsuccessful in his pursuits. Obviously he should have taken up blogging instead.

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