It was subtitled – oh, horror of horrors! – but you could almost have played it without translation, such was the precision of its observation, and it surprised and encouraged the much-sought-after mature, one-film-a year crowd. His second film is another relaxed but keenly perceptive autumn sonata, made by much the same team – notably dextrous cinematographer Gian Enrico Bianchi. It also features the same two stars: the first is the director himself, playing another hard-pressed character, again called Gianni and again suffering an elderly, rich mother graciously; the second, a lived-in Rome, pictured beautifully and seductively, if almost nonchalantly, in warm late summer.
Plus ça change? Pretty much. The McGuffin is new. In the previous adventure, the old Gianni had to provide a lunch for his mum. In the present one, the new Gianni (a married man, living on the Viale Gloriosa with a hard-working wife, an ever-partying daughter and a dog) makes efforts – pretty minimal – to have a sexual affair.
This isn’t particularly on his own promptings, it must be said, but on the insistence of his sexually satisfied lawyer pal, Alfonso. But, to be explicit, the plot isn’t the point. Neither are the film’s watchwords: carpe diem! It’s more about charm. Di Gregorio, as an actor, has it. And, as a director, too. Wisely, he deals in what he knows – life’s minutiae – and he proves the considerable pleasures of watching them unfold: especially when, as here, they are so wittily observed, humorously understood and keenly felt.