Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Some of the most enjoyable movie experiences to be had the last few years have been Italian
imports, titles like Everything's Fine, Cinema Paradiso, Il Postino,
and the recent Italian for Beginners, which is actually Danish, but who's complaining.
Frankly, it's not uncommon for Savant to get all worked up over some weird title which turns
out to be a disappointment.
Then we'll go out to see what the wife wants to see - namely, stuff like the above, and we'll
both have a great time. Bread and Tulips is a romantic trifle of a comedy that doesn't
strive to be the most profound movie of all time. Modest and honest, it succeeds in
being very entertaining.
Rosalba Barletta (Licia Maglietta) is a 40ish Italian housewife whose husband and
almost adult sons scarcely acknowledge her existence, let alone appreciate her. On a tour of
ancient ruins, the neglect becomes obvious when the bus leaves her behind - and her husband blames
and belittles her via cell phone. Hitchhiking home, she suddenly gets the urge to visit Venice,
a city she's never seen. There she meets new people, including Fernando Girasole (Bruno Ganz), an Icelandic
emigre who speaks and writes endearingly mannered Italian but has developed a suicide complex. Putting
off her husband with less and less frequent phone calls, she rents a room in Fernando's apartment
and meets other fun people, and takes a job with a florist who's a walking encyclopedia on the
subject of old-time radicals. Instead of coming after her himself, her husband sends an amateur
detective hoping to make good - whose methodical combing of the city is bound to ferret out
Rosalba, sooner or later.
Bread and Tulips is remindful of a '70s Florinda Bolkan film called Una Breve Vacanza
(A Brief Vacation), about a miserable wife who blossoms when away from her stifling family on a
state-mandated health break. It was practically a tragedy, something that this show heartily avoids.
A lot more realistic than Amelie, Bread and Tulips is at heart the same kind of
journey of discovery for a romantically-impaired but very endearing woman. The comedy is light
and simple, with a slightly eccentric streak, but never weird for weird's sake. Accustomed to being
berated and mistreated, Rosalba finds herself by simply getting the opportunity to let her own
personality come out with a variety of strangers.
The casting is very good, with Licia Maglietta creating a terrific woman with whom to identify. She's
not particularly maladroit or pitiful, like the typical Giulietta Masina orphan-type. When she accidentally
breaks the lid of an ornamental souvenir she's just bought, she takes the petty tragedy in stride: in
other words, we're not expected to hang our emotional survival on her every little problem. She's
actually pretty handy to have around, with the experience in plumbing from her husband and her green
thumb with plants. There's an hilarious bit wherein her frustrated husband, asked to water her mint
plants on the balcony back home, stuffs them in his mouth and eats them instead!. Rosalba relates to
others as adults, and is soon gathering a second family of friends around her in Venice.
Bruno Ganz is charming as the pokerfaced but ornately expressive waiter who lets Rosalba first into
his apartment, but then into his life. He's a mystery she has to unravel, and as she realizes she's
becoming attached to him, she's scared what she'll find out. Naturally, the time eventually comes
has to make some hard choices about what to do with herself, a problem that would have seemed
unthinkable to her a few weeks before. Bread and Tulips makes it into something we care about.
Director Silvio Soldini aquits himself well in a handsome production that makes Venice look like a
place we all need to move to, on the next available plane. I understand the city's got its problems,
Italian tourist people must love this movie. This is the kind of show where you don't notice that
it's well-written and directed until you're clapping at the end, as you simply feel very happily
Columbia TriStar's DVD of Bread and Tulips is a good example of their fine anamorphic transfer
work. The English subtitles are easy to read and whatever sex & drug references the PG-13 rating
is so worried about amount to less than nothing. There are no real extras save for a few trailers.
Bread and Tulips didn't make a big splash like some of the other recent foreign successes,
perhaps because folks looking for spicy European fare were all going to see that lame fake French
film, Chocolat, with its cheap gags (aphrodesiac candy) and cheaper moralizing. Savant won't
be reviewing that one. But if Bread and Tulips comes your way, it's recommended as a great
date movie for anyone with a half-adult brain.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Bread and Tulips rates:
Packaging: Amaray case
Reviewed: April 9, 2002
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson