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Savant Short Review:

Bread and Tulips

Bread and Tulips
Columbia TriStar
2000 / Color / 1:78 anamorphic 16:9 / 114 min. / Pane e tulipani
Starring Licia Maglietta, Bruno Ganz, Marina Massironi, Giuseppe Battiston, Felice Andreasi, Antonio Catania, Tiziano Cucchiarelli
Cinematography Luca Bigazzi
Production Designer Paola Bizzarri
Film Editor Carlotta Cristiani
Original Music Giovanni Venosta
Written by Doriana Leondeff and Silvio Soldini
Produced by Daniele Maggioni, Tiziana Soudani
Directed by Silvio Soldini

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 when Rosalba 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, but the 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 entertained.

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:
Movie: Excellent
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Trailers
Packaging: Amaray case
Reviewed: April 9, 2002

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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