Lately I've come to appreciate small, intimate movies that are in the 'slice of life' style. This Italian gem I recently sampled is a worthy example.
The eponymous Gianni is a retiree in Rome, somewhere on the long end of middle-age. His wife still works, thus he is sent off on various domestic errands during working hours, and this he is content to do. Then there's his somewhat confused daughter and her equally shiftless boyfriend who has moved into their home. There's Gianni's rich, demanding mother who has him at her beck and call. And then there's his friend and peer Alfonso, a rakish lawyer who attempts to get Gianni off the straight and narrow and into the fast lane of late-age sexual/romantic dalliance.
Now this straight and narrow as it were, is very much Gianni's choice. It's just that he has reached a point where he is seemingly invisible to the young women around him. Invisible and inaudible. He is touchingly earnest in his realization, accepting it with a kind of shrugging melancholy. But he has the persistent Alfonso to keep nudging him away from this acceptance; even if we don't know if 'Alfo' is actually successful with the women himself.
And there are a few very beautiful women around poor Gianni. First the downstairs neighbor, a hazel-eyed sprite who flirts with him relentlessly, turns out to have passed off her dog-walking duties on him. Then the identical blond twins, Alfo's clients; Gianni's mother's caretaker; another woman who is an old flame, and yet another who is an old acquaintance: they make up the rolls as he shambles around amiably trying to see where he can get.
Street life in Rome appears in tantalizing vignettes, as does the stupendous house belonging to Gianni's very old mother. Then there's the scene where he gets lost with the neighbor's St. Bernard. (It's an Italian St. Bernard named Riccardo! I was wildly in love.) And the three old men who sit around on the side street all day, one of them in perpetual sweatpants. There are many such little moments, and it makes you feel like you are looking in through a very accessible little window into the lives of these characters. Ultimately you don't know whether to root for Gianni because that would result in infidelity. At the same time you are wishing for him to have just a little bit of luck...and it is in this easy engagement with your sympathies, whether with Gianni or with any other character depending on who you are, where the script scores.
There's another film that came before this, Pranzo di Ferragosto, as a kind of first part to the Gianni life stories. However that one didn't catch my attention like this one did, so I'm hoping there will be a third. Gianni e le donne is wry and sweet, meant to be savored for its moments rather like a glass of good wine that slowly freshens you up on a hot afternoon in the plaza.
Director: Gianni Di Gregorio
Overall rating: 7/10
English title: The Salt of Life