The FEDEORA Award at the Festival of European and Mediterranean Film (FEMF) held in Koper, Slovenia was given to the Macedonian film Punk’s not Dead (Pankot ne e mrtov) by Vladimir Blaževski, while the special mention went to The Salt of Life (Gianni e le donne) by Gianni Di Gregorio. Jury members were: Dubravka Lakic (Serbia), Tonci Valentic (Croatia) and Gabriele Barrera (Italy).
“Spicy. Independent. Not so ambitious. The Salt of Life by Gianni Di Gregorio demonstrates the flavour of salt of the euromediterranean cinema”. This is the official motivation of FEDEORA’s Special Mention at the 2nd FEMF in Koper.
The typical Italian style (post La Dolce Vita?) by De Gregorio is usually spicy: that is true, because the history of Gianni – divided into three acts: prologue, narration, dreamed epilogue – could be a stand-up joke, or, even better, could be considered as the ironic counterpart of one of the usual stories of Italian prime-minister Berlusconi, well-known in the world for the The Salt of his Life.., moreover, because the picture’s Italian trailer “gives the impression of yet another movie about an old guy getting babes”, writes Jay Weissberg in Variety (Feb. 12, 2011, after the Berlinale out-competition screening) “but thankfully that’s not what Di Gregorio is going for”. And so, Di Gregorio’s style is not-so-usual but anyway spicy: because Di Gregorio is of course the multi-awarded director of Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di ferragosto, Italy 2008), the first part of this brilliant diptych about old age, Italian mama’s boys, sadness, crises, fear of the lack of means and creativity originated from the lack of means. Typical Italian stuff, isn’t it? It’s not that true. The Salt of Life can also speak to an international audience. Let’s see why.
Like in one of Fellini’s masterpieces, City of Women (Italy, 1980), here, an aged guy, an eternal adolescent like an odd Peter Pan or Don Giovanni or just Fellini’s Snaporaz, is alone against the female-universe: this is the main character, Gianni (yes, Di Gregorio himself, in a spontaneous and autobiographical performance based, at the same time, on some performances à la Nanni Moretti, perhaps). But, just like in Woody Allen’s episode Oedipus Wrecks from New York Stories (1989), here comes the (archetypical) horror-figure of the Mother (Valeria De Franciscis Bendoni, the same old mama-granny of Mid-August Lunch): she’s omnipresent, omnipotent, subtly ambivalent like her son, and of course she’s the real gag machine of The Salt of Life. Isn’t it a comedy, after all? Gianni proposes (encounters with girls), mama disposes (Freudian obstacles). Gianni is divided among multiple girls (his wife, his daughter, his neighbours – the twins Laura and Silvia Squizzato, Heimlich / Unheimlich presence of the eternal feminine). Mama is but only one (no words to describe her). Gianni would like to be loved and powerful; Mama has to be loved and powerful. Through this simple relationship, a whole world of ancient wars between poor and rich ones, wannabe-men and real women, Es and Super-Ego, is developed – for all types of audiences. A minimalist movie in the narrative style and in the mise-en-scène, that could make us think of Gianni Di Gregorio as a new Tati, a new Kitano (better than the last Kitano, perhaps…).
Yes, sweet minimalism: an euro-mediterranean passport for universality. This is the definitive difference between the old Italian comedy, for example the ridiculous Luciano Salce’s Crazy Desire (La voglia matta, Italy 1962), and this not ridiculous movie about a perturbed man. Small erotic things, or better, de-eroticisms. Honest points-of-view about the so-called middle age. A little Nietzschean Wille zur Macht. Familial intimacies. The Salt of Life is moreover the authentic, minimal alter ego (a more genuine ego, in our opinion) of Italian dramas like Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, Italy 2008), a great movie with the screenplay (surprise!) by the same Gianni Di Gregorio. How strange! But not so strange, because comedy is always the other side of drama.
Gabriele Barrera, Italy, FEDEORA jury member