The Salt of Life is writer-director Gianni Di Gregorio's second film, after the charming surprise that was Mid-August Lunch, to follow the modest exploits of an aging Italian man named Gianni (played by Di Gregorio, naturally). The first film had Gianni entertaining his elderly mother and her friends, cooking them elaborate meals while watching over them. This time around, Gianni's on his own and looking for a little romance, despite the fact that he's a family man.
Di Gregorio places Gianni into a context that makes the moral aspect of Gianni's quest harmless, allowing the audience to be amused by his missteps, rather than concentrate on the infidelity. We know early on that he's in a sexless marriage, broke, unemployed and endlessly called upon by his mother and others for errands and help. In these relationships, he exudes a selflessness bordering on the masochistic, never really taking anything for himself, always accepting what comes to him, no matter how thankless. So, when a friend keeps suggesting that Gianni seek a little pleasure for himself in the form of an affair, the logic of the world presented makes it seem a reasonable route, even if it takes a while for Gianni to come around to the idea.
The Salt of Life is the rare sequel that works, fully recapturing the magic that made Mid-August Lunch such a treat. It's completely unnecessary to have seen the former film in order to appreciate it, although a quick look at Mid-August Lunch (it's a breezy 80-min. in length) will only deepen your joy when watching the new movie.
In the screening that I saw, there were numerous moments that evoked roars of laughter from the audience. This is easily the funniest film I've seen in 2012, wringing humor out of even the most cliched of situations. It's a rare treat and I'll probably still be talking about it as the year comes to a close.
The Salt of Life will screen for the public at the Lake Twin Cinema on Feb. 10th at 6pm and, again, at Cinemagic on Feb. 12th at 5:45pm.
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