One thing this film taught me—pretty much every woman in Rome (under 60) looks good, and almost all of them are down to fuck.
Or perhaps that’s just the way lead character Gianni Di Gregorio sees it at this point in his life, and like most things too-good-to-be-true, that doesn’t turn out to be the case. Maybe it’s the type of shit when you’re in a relationship; women seem more accessible, and more interested. So you figure, fuck….if anything goes wrong here, it’s not gonna be so bad out there. But the moment you make a move, you feel transparent, as if all the opportunity suddenly dried up; like the world is one step ahead of you and no matter what you do you’re always late to the party. So you float around; from woman to woman, date to date, bottle to bottle (the alcohol kind, not the baby kind…though I’m open to most fetishism); the repetition of life starts to eat at you and soon it feels as if the only ones willing to accept you for who you are, are your cigarettes.
These were the thoughts fluttering through my head as I watched THE SALT OF LIFE in a theater shared only with three elderly women that greatly resembled the lead character’s leather-faced-cunt-of-a-mother (played effortlessly by leather-faced-cunt-of-a-woman, Valeria De Franciscis). For some reason I woke up with an itch to head on down to the local art-house theater and pick a random foreign film based on nothing more than a two sentence synopsis.
So this one’s about a retired guy in Rome trolling for ass? Probably a good amount of bare tits on display.
Let’s do it.
(Interestingly, it appeared the THREE HAGS OF HELL one row back, knew about as much as I did going into the film.)
HAG #1: But is it a comedy?
HAG #2: I heard it was funny.
HAG #1: Does he die in the end?
HAG: #3: Who?
HAG #1: The Italian man…
HAG #2: Well I don’t know…I haven’t seen it.
HAG #3: The paper called it ‘rueful’.
HAG #1: But is it a comedy?
The film is tough to define, and that’s what makes it so engaging. At the center of it we find a likable guy that has always done right by his family, and pretty much only exists now to to serve others. He’s married, but the relationship has diminished to nothing more than a roommate he shares a bank account with. Retirement has become something of a death sentence for him. His days are spent running errands for his wife, tending to Mama Leatherface (hypochondriac bitch), and smoking on the balcony. Gianni’s is a delicate, somber world populated by colorful characters cruising along at their own pace, spending too much time talking and not enough time listening. The story is told in the human observations within the quiet/solitary moments; the walks, the drives, the time spent waiting on a bitch’s couch as she works with her singing coach, belting out some twat-awful opera song knowing damn well you came to FUCK, she said drop by any time on Sunday, and when you do the bitch is occupied, but oh well….here you are, sitting awkwardly on a couch like a little kid, zoning out, and wishing you were anywhere but here.
This is Gianni’s life.
He’s mesmerized by every woman he passes, caught up in a daydream, visualizing some kind of future with them as he gawks at their tits. And though the film drips with pent up sexuality, and paints the world as one big pussy just waitin’ to get fucked, that’s not what Gianni’s after. His lawyer friend Alfonso tries to convince him otherwise, tells him he should have an affair, gives him the address of a brothel, even hooks him up with some dick-hardening pills. But like everyone in Gianni’s life, Alfonso doesn’t truly know him. Gianni is looking for love. Or perhaps, just the sensation of love, to transport him back to his youth when the future still held promise.
Interestingly, there are two supporting characters that tell us more about Gianni than he can even himself. His daughter’s slacker boyfriend and his party-girl neighbor downstairs (played by the devastatingly cock-throbbing Aylin Prandi).
The boyfriend, Michelangelo, is introduced as a young punk that balls his daughter and eats his food. Initially, Gianni tries to convince her to drop his worthless ass, but being the kind soul that he is, he’s nothing but hospitable to Michaelangelo’s face. When the women of the house leave for the day, the two of them are left alone to share a kinship in their mutual aimlessness. Michaelangelo becomes one of the only people to embrace Gianni for who he is and not judge him or attempt to prod him into places he doesn’t want to go. He merely enjoys his company and becomes something of a son he never had.
Aylin, the big-titted slice’a pie downstairs, spends every morning hungover and every day preparing for the next night’s party. She jokes around with Gianni that she’s in love with him and he laps it up. It’d be creepy were he not such a fucking nice guy. She’s a representation of the simplicity of youthful debauchery, when the only thing that mattered was what kinda music was playing and what kinda booze you were slamming. The thudding bass of her parties downstairs serve as a reminder that the innocence of yesteryear is so close, yet so tragically unobtainable. Aylin is a gateway to his desires, which manifest in the comedically uplifting yet surprisingly profound finale; when a laced drink allows Gianni to finally visit that place he’s been searching for, a fantasy-land of never-ending wine and Italian tit sweat where NOTHING ELSE FUCKING MATTERS.
This is one of the best portraits of a mid-life crisis I’ve ever seen.
One particularly poignant moment sums it up nicely—after a series of failed attempts to start something with a female; Gianni, depressed and smoking on his balcony in his pajamas, tells Alfonso, “I don’t wanna go out and be just another old man on the street.” But tragically, that’s exactly what he is. A wanderer. A guy that needs SOMETHING but can’t figure out what that is; so he hits the streets, with all the other lost souls, and ends up spending most of his time in the company of dogs. It’s safer that way, fewer expectations. The world has become a different place while he’s been away in family-man-limbo, and now he’s just a guy trying to find his place; which is the universal theme that hits whether you’re in your late 50s or your late 20s. It’s been done to death, sure—but never with this much charm and this much honesty. It never relishes in the misery, instead it pokes fun at the mundane and celebrates the challenges of life and love, making us realize it’s a miracle that any of this shit works at all.
I don’t know, maybe those hags in the theater were onto something; walking outta this motherfucker (alone I might add), I took a drag off my cigarette and felt good as I exhaled. I felt alive. Sure, life can be lonely and ‘rueful’ at times, but you gotta deal with the fucking hand you’re dealt, and once in awhile step back, laugh at the absurdity of it all and ask yourself: “But is it a comedy?”
Full Disclaimer: THERE ARE NO
BARE TITS IN THIS FILM. I
KOUTCHBOOM (left), I FLUFFED HILLARY DUFF (right) & AYLIN — Monte Argentario, Festa del Lavoro 2007