Tuesday, January 31, 2012


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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And here we go again: the press screenings for the 35th annual Portland International Film Festival began yesterday morning.  First up, a film about young love or, really, recovery from first love.

Goodbye First Love is Mia Hansen-Løve's (Father of My Children) take on the puppy love, gone awry film.  Young Camille (Lola Créton) is hopelessly taken with her boyfriend Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky).  Sullivan claims to love her but also doesn't want to grow "too dependent," spending nights away from Camille at parties while planning a move to South America.  Predictably, it's not long before Sullivan is out of the picture, fracturing her immature view of what constitutes life.

The film spends an incredible amount of time focusing on Camille's emotional recovery, only to send her into the arms of her much older architectural studies professor, Lorenz (Magne-Håvard Brekke), a move that, like the initial breakup with Sullivan, one can see coming from a mile away.  This relationship is also strained, although, this time, it's her inability to fully commit that threatens it.

Overall, Goodbye First Love is a perfectly fine distraction.  It's well shot and the performances are admirable.  If there is something to complain about, it's that Hansen-Løve focuses so intensely on Camille's post-breakup depression that there's little room for plot advancement during a very large chunk of the film.  Most of the time, when it's not bogged down by pacing issues, it's a fairly pleasant, though somewhat slight, film.

Goodbye First Love will screen for the public at the Lloyd Mall 5 on Feb. 12th at 2pm and, again, at Cinema 21 on Feb. 17th at 8:45pm.

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