The Salt of Life is an Italian film by Gianni Di Gregorio, whose protagonist, an aging, affable man in Rome, is also the director’s alter-ego. The film provides a glimpse into Gianni’s life in his golden years as he fumbles through familial relationships and encounters with various women, much of which are informed by his fear of time’s passing.
What is the salt in an otherwise bland life? Perhaps fulfilling relationships, engaging work, hobbies, interests, travel…? Nope, says The Salt of Life. It is sleeping with buxom young women. I’m likely oversimplifying the director’s intent to portray the trials of aging, but the movie mostly fails to bring this interesting issue to fruition.
The Salt of Life is like a raunchy teen movie, minus the actual raunch. It features old men (mostly, man) lusting after younger, attractive, and voluptuous women who themselves are little more than manipulative, silly and flighty characters who can’t take care of themselves. Upon reflection, this consistent portrayal of all the females in the film is quite offensive.
The comic elements are predictable and unfunny, involving accidentally consumed drugs in drinks and a viagara/car accident scene. Likewise, the dialogue never veers from boring simplicity. Might the Italian language have obscured for reviewers this fact? I kept waiting for something interesting to be said, something more meaningful about aging than the fact that hot, young women were no longer attainable. The most depth the movie approaches is in the wordless, when Gianni walks his dog and stares at old men in their various states of debilitation; his dread of time’s cruel hand is evoked nicely in these scenes.
And the ending sequence? Well, I won’t spoil it, but it does nothing to redeem the film from superficiality. Baffled by the movie’s New York Times endorsement, I read Stephen Holden’s review and though in truth, he says very little that explains the high rating, I disagree with those assertions he did make. He describes one “touching” scene with an ex-lover of Gianni’s that in actuality was just another example of Gianni’s single-minded pursuit of sex with boring, helpless women. And Holden references the depth to which the movie aspired, claiming that until the sentimental last scene, the movie “sympathetically bears out the observation in Yeats’s poem “After Long Silence” that ‘bodily decrepitude is wisdom.’” What Mr. Holden saw in the movie and in Gianni, I did not. To my mind, the movie bears out the observation that bodily decrepitude is boredom, despair, silliness, and unsatisfied lust.