Salt's main preoccupation is Gianni's discovery that while he's as available and interested in women as ever, at age 63 he is no longer visible to them. Surrounded by femininity in low-cut dresses — while lower-key, this movie stares open-mouthed at breasts as fervently as Italian sexploitation king Tinto Brass does asses — he is depressed to find they perceive him in asexual terms. (It is particularly wounding when a sexy neighbor says she had a "beautiful dream" about him ... in which he was her grandfather.) A still randy lawyer friend (Alfonso Santagata) trying to get him back into circulation advises, "An old engine that's been abandoned for years and gone rusty needs time to start working again." The screenplay attempts lubricating Gianni's gears via Viagra and, later, an accidental dosing of some party hallucinogenic.
While Fellini confronted desirable, daunting womanhood with a permanent adolescent's masturbatory fantasizing, Di Gregorio's humbler self-knowledge finds comedy in the hangdog haplessness of an old dog who can't learn new tricks and has forgotten the old ones. Nearly as food-focused as his first film, The Salt of Life is like a rich home-cooked meal lent gentle absurdity by the cook's constant worrying aloud whether his digestion can still take the strain. *
THE SALT OF LIFE opens Fri/30 in Bay Area theaters.