11 November 2011 | guy-bellinger
Nice slice of contemporary Italian life
Some critics blamed this film for being a failed Italian comedy. For sure, supposing the aim of Gianni Di Gregorio (the director-writer-main actor) had been to make one, "Gianni e le donne" would not have hit the mark: it is indeed neither hilarious nor cruel enough to be a true successor of Risi, Scola, Monicelli and company. The reason why they criticized this movie simply lies in the fact that they had decided in advance that, with a title like "Gianni e le donne", the film was to be a new "I mostri" or "Il sorpasso" and they did not watch it for what it really was. By way of example, Gianni, the central character, has nothing to do with the "monsters" played by Gassman or Sordi. He is actually a genial retired man, well liked by his neighbors (a little too much, to tell the truth, as they tend to somewhat take advantage of his kindness). He is no seducer and if the title is "Gianni and the Women", the blame is to be put on his friend Alfonso, a sixty-odd-year-old lawyer who urges him to have mistresses to stay in the race. According to him, all the males over sixty, except Gianni, get laid with a younger woman, which, in addition to living life to the full, keeps them from becoming old hats. Gianni, the kind of man who goes with the flow, complies, even if halfheartedly, just like he obeys his capricious old mother whenever she rings for him, exactly the way he walks his downstairs neighbor's dog, etc. The good man will thus be seen trying his luck with several women: Kristina, his mother's sexy personal nurse ; the divorced daughter of one of his mother's friends ; one of a pair of attractive twins... With a level of success proportional to his lack of motivation! So, if you accept the idea that Gianni is not a Gassman or Manfredi-like monster, if you do not expect any graphic or even crazy sex (as the title could imply), you will doubtless enjoy "Gianni e le donne". For, what you will get instead is far from uninteresting, namely a relevant slice of life in today's Italy, containing an implicit criticism of its current defects (Gianni's future son-in-law who, as he does not find work, does not try to find any ; the pervasiveness of sex in everyday life ; the cult of youth tyranny) ; a leisurely rhythm similar to the pace of real life ; discreet smiles rather than big laughs. And if you value such qualities, you will not feel let down because of an incorrect supposition. Gianni Di Gregorio plays with talent this ordinary man who, through the misadventures he goes through, starts questioning himself about the meaning of his life and about the coming of old age. He can even move the unprejudiced viewer, without overplaying, in fine touches that, by an accumulation effect, add to the truthfulness of the character. In a way, Gianni Di Gregorio in this movie appears as a distant cousin - older and less eccentric - of Jean-Pierre Léaud in François Truffaut's "Domicile conjugal" As good as him, but in a more outlandish style, is the excellent Valeria De Franciscis, playing Gianni's rich and selfish mother. The rest of the cast fulfills its task to perfection. Viewing "Gianni e le donne" proves a very satisfying experience. Pleasant and thought-provoking, this comedy proves one more time that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Italian cinema is not dead.