Second youth: Italian comedy at its best (review)

Second youth: Italian comedy at its best (review)

Gianni Di Gregorio hits the bull’s eye again in a moving fantasy full of charm where his duet with Stefania Sandrelli works wonders!

For Gianni di Gregorio, life (as a filmmaker) really began at 60! The age when the one who had already done the actor (Ospiti, Roman estate) for Matteo Garrone and co-wrote with him the adaptation of Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano, took his first steps as a director. Sacred prize for best film at the Venice Film Festival 2008, August 15 lunch was going to impose him directly as the worthy heir of the golden age of Italian comedy, that of Scola, Risi, Comencini between humor and gnashing of teeth, tenderness and self-mockery. With this character of Gianni, a nonchalant and hedonistic Roman whom he embodied with all his mischievous class and whom he would bring to life and age later on the screen for three other feature films Gianni and the women (in 2011, good for nothing (in 2015) and Citizens of the world (in 2019), where this irreducible social misfit faced the hassles of a daily life that increasingly overwhelmed him with this ever so irresistible bittersweet tone and a relevant way of telling the world without ever giving lessons

Second youth marks a break in continuity. Because if he still plays the central role in an atmosphere of benevolent fantasy, for the first time the character is no longer called by his first name but Astolfo and the action leaves Rome to become rural in the heart of a small village. . That of his ancestors where this penniless retired professor settles after being expelled from his Roman apartment, inside the “family palace” which has lost its splendor to the point of becoming almost uninhabitable when he arrives. From this starting point, Gianni Di Gregorio could have made a poignant film about the precariousness of the third age and the loneliness that results from it. But true to who he is and what he loves – and as the title of his fifth feature indicates – he has chosen to tell precisely the opposite: the story of a rebirth. That of this man who, rather coolly welcomed by his neighbor – the priest whose Church adjoins his house and who will continue to misuse spaces belonging to him – and a very arrogant mayor will overcome the loneliness by making a group of friends particularly colorful (the marginal who has been squatting in his house for years, a retired cook, an unemployed young man) but also and above all by rediscovering love and those moments he believed to be forever inscribed in his only past of the first meetings that one approaches with the trembling and timid heart of adolescence.

These scenes facing a septuagenarian character also aspiring to rediscover a second youth and no longer live just like the grandmother of her grandchildren constitute a happiness that is all the purer since Di Gregorio had the fine idea of ​​appealing for this role to Stefania Sandrelli, the unforgettable heroine of Conformist and of We loved each other so much. This choice owes nothing to chance because the shadow of Italian cinema of those years (and sometimes even of Don Camillo) hovers over Second youth but without ever crushing it because the story never looks in the rear view mirror. Whimsical, joyful but capable of bringing tears to your eyes without you seeing anything coming, he saw himself through the gaze of his hero whose only compass was the desire for a bright future. For Gianni di Gregorio as for Astolfo, life is just beginning at 70!

By Gianni Di Gregorio. With Gianni di Gregorio, Stefania Sandrelli, Alfonse Santagata… Duration: 1h31. Released August 16, 2023

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