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BREAD AND TULIPS (PANE E TULIPANI) (director/writer: Silvio Soldini; screenwriter: Doriana Leondeff; cinematographer: Luca Bigazzi; editor: Carlotta Cristiani; music: Giovanni Venosta; cast: Licia Maglietta (Rosalba), Bruno Ganz (Fernando), Giuseppe Massironi (Costantino), Marina Massironi (Grazia), Antonio Catania (Mimmo), Felice Andreasi (Fermo), Vitalba Andrea (Ketty), Tatiana Lepore (Adele), Ludovico Paladin (Eliseo); Runtime:116; Look Pictures; 2000-Italian)
“It’s an old hat story of a repressed woman being reborn when she takes a risk and finds her own personality — a feel-good film with a schmaltzy love offering of tulips and bread.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A contrived comical sitcom love story about a bored bourgeois housewife running away to Venice. Every character in this middle-brow art-house film who resides in arty Venice is quirky and meant to make the runaway feel at home in her new love canal surroundings, while the people from her hometown of Pescara make her feel guilty because she deserted her family and they want her to return to her safe but dull surroundings. It’s an old hat story of a repressed woman being reborn when she takes a risk and finds her own personality — a feel-good film with a schmaltzy love offering of tulips and bread.

Rosalba (Licia Maglietta) is on a bus tour with a guide lecturing about the virtues of Greco-Roman history, calling the modern-day Italian the descendants of “the greatest people in history,” as the group of tourists look at the ruins of an ancient temple but most seem to be too lost in their own materialism and vulgarities to care about what knowledge they are missing. This tour takes place through Paestum–the antique location by the gulf of Salerno–that was founded in 600 B.C. by Greek colonists. Rosalba is accompanied by her obnoxious plumbing business owner hubby Mimmo (Antonio Catania) and their two disengaged teenager sons. When she stops off at a diner’s restroom on the highway, the bus leaves without her and the hubby doesn’t notice she’s missing until a few hours later. When he calls by cell phone he can only yell that it is her fault, and he orders her to wait there for him. The fortyish housewife impulsively decides to hitchhike north to Venice. The film lost me here, as I found this scenario to be hardly believable.

In Venice she finds a chance to blossom and express what’s in her heart, as the romantic city gives her a chance to be alone and think about what she’s missing in life. Every one she meets here is kind and understanding of her situation. Dining alone she meets a suicidal Icelandic restaurateur, Fernando (Bruno Ganz), who is a real gentleman but is also mysterious. As she doesn’t have much money, she accepts his invitation to stay in an empty cluttered room in his big house. There she meets her next-door neighbor, a single woman named Grazia (Marina Massironi), who is a kooky holistic masseuse and will become her close friend. She decides to stay in Venice indefinitely when she easily nails a job with a good-hearted and poetical anarchist florist, Fermo (Andreasi).

Silvio Soldini’s (“Le Acrobate“) comedy is a yearning for a more ancient Italy that cared more about the arts, civility, and romance as compared to the Italy of today that is overcome with consumerism. In such crowd pleasing films, romance will always win out over materialism. This film is no exception.

Giuseppe Massironi is the unemployed plumber, Costantino, who is hired by Mimmo to be a private detective and bring Rosalba home from Venice. He makes for a comical rotund figure, as he’s a momma’s boy and has no experience being a detective except that his hobby is reading detective stories. Instead of turning Rosalba in — he falls in love with Grazia and quits his job.

Since Mimmo is shown to have a mistress and is crude and narcissistic, caring more for his wife’s homemaking abilities than romance, it is easy to see why she is moved by the gentle and caring Fernando. Ganz in that role saves this trite story, as he provides a genuine feeling of warmth as a grandpa with a dark secret from his past that comes unraveled. But this secret only enhances his relationship with the busty and the naturally attractive Rosalba. Licia Maglietta also helps the story, as she’s convincingly sweet, vulnerable and hopelessly romantic. These qualities make for an appealing heroine, who in her quest for true love must find it in someone who is not her hubby and in someone who really appreciates that he has fallen in love.

I found it tried to be soooo soooo cute and charming, but in actuality I found it unrealistic and all its roads north led only to a contrived rosy ending.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”