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Review: The Salt of Life

The Salt of Life
Photo: The Salt of Life

An otherwise bland stew of postmenopausal-male sexual lethargy, The Salt of Life is initially intriguing for the matter-of-factness with which the marriage of its middle-class, early-retiree Roman everyman (director and co-writer Gianni Di Gregorio) is characterized by sexless suspension. Occasionally flitting into the eponymously named Gianni’s separate bedroom to task him with financial errands, his wife is an otherwise businesslike nonfactor in this 60-year-old’s libidinal crisis, which is that he pines for—and discreetly swivels his neck toward—the platoon of enticing women that surround his daily dog-walking and house-husbanding: the platonically affectionate downstairs neighbor, the professional coloratura who’s an old flame, and the young home attendant for his poker-playing nonagenarian mother. This situation, rather than mined for graying sex-comedy laughs, soon slows into a mildly self-pitying plod with the broadest jokes reserved for peripheral characters like Gianni’s daughter’s layabout, about-to-be dumped boyfriend (“She got really wasted last night. I don’t like her that way”) and the elderly, poker-addicted Mama (Valeria De Franciscis Bendoni, assigned the same shtick and role she had in Di Gregorio’s slightly tangier Mid-August Lunch).

Di Gregorio lacks the comedic fearlessness to either bump up the stakes with pathos, beyond scenes of Gianni poking his pouchy skin before a mirror or fleeing an older pooch-accompanied geezer on a park bench, or to stage even any abortive attempts for his antihero to get his rocks off; peeping another retired signore in a clinch with his store-clerk mistress is about the closest he gets to consummation. Di Gregorio merely bounces his character between environments of not-particularly-available temptation (a party thrown by his daughter, filled with nubile make-out artists) and mild humiliation, including a dinner date where his former lover (a putative contemporary who appears at least a decade younger) falls asleep in postprandial bliss, degenerating to an inevitable forced “love pill”-popping at the hands of his lawyer and would-be wingman. From Gianni’s temporary paralysis doing crunches to ingesting a spiked drink that sets him on a night-long trip amid the fountains and traffic, neighbor’s Saint Bernard looking on piteously, we’ve seen it all before, save for an especially lame parade-of-dream-girls finale set to the Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man,” which demonstrates that The Salt of Life’s least musty ideas are among its worst.

Cast: Gianni Di Gregorio, Valeria De Franciscis Bendoni, Alfonso Santagata, Valeria Cavalli, Aylin Prandi, Kristina Cepraga Director: Gianni Di Gregorio Screenwriter: Gianni Di Gregorio, Valerio Attanasio Distributor: Zeitgeist Films Running Time: 90 min Rating: NR Year: 2011 Buy: Video

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