The Salt of Life

Fortunate Film Club folks will remember when we screened the wonderful Mid-August Lunch, back in September 2016.  In that gem of a comedy a retired middle-aged bachelor cares for his ancient mother in the bustling central Roman district of Trastevere and is persuaded to take care of three other old women over a bank holiday weekend.

In this new film, The Salt of Life, Gianni is married with a daughter, living on a modest pension but still at the beck and call of the imperious Valeria, who lives in a grand town house and is steadily diminishing her son’s inheritance on a daily basis through her extravagant ways. However, because of her dotty vitality, the law regards this 96-year-old as compos mentis and won’t give her son the power of attorney to restrain her.

 Gianni’s a kindly, decent, thoughtful man, who has his first cigarette of the day before getting out of his pyjamas and drinks too much white wine without being a guilt-ridden alcoholic. He has become a seemingly marginal but extremely valuable figure in many people’s lives, all as vividly sketched as Gianni himself.

“The film is packed with subtly observed details of behaviour and gesture of a kind we associate with Ealing comedy at its zenith, and an elaborate Chekhovian story is being told before we realise it. The movie’s original title is the straightforward “Gianni and the Women” (Gianni e le Donne), and at the centre of the narrative there emerges a story of discontent, unrest and sexual pursuit initiated by Gianni’s best  friend, the plump, Mercedes-driving lawyer Alfonso.”

It is a pleasure to be in his humane company, his film is an adult experience, and the older you are the more adult it will appear…