Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Silvio Soldini
Stars: Licia Maglietta, Bruno Ganz, Guiseppe Battiston, Antonio Catania, Marina Massironi, Vitalba Andrea, Danielle Piperno, Tatiana Lepore, Felice Andreasi.
An Italian version of Shirley Valentine? This charming and genial multi-award winning comedy centres around a middle-aged woman who unexpectedly rediscovers herself and her zest for life.
During a family tour of Italy, plain housewife Rosalba (Licia Maglietta) is inadvertently left behind by the bus doing a routine stop for refreshments. Even her own husband, a self-absorbed plumber, and her two sons don’t notice her absence for a couple of hours. Instead of waiting for them to return to pick her up, Rosalba decides to hitchhike, and ends up in picturesque Venice, a city she has never visited before. But a brief idyllic stay in the city soon turns into something else, as she lands a job with a well-meaning but anarchist florist, and establishes a friendship with Fernando, (Bruno Ganz, from Wings Of Desire, etc), a suicidal waiter, and rediscovers her passion for music.
Meanwhile, as Rosalba rediscovers her independence and joy for life, her worried husband hires the well meaning but hapless Constantino (Guiseppe Battiston), a plumber with an interest in mystery stories, as a private detective to try and track her down.
Better known for his body of documentaries, director Silvio Soldini establishes a nice rhythm with this delightful, pleasing comedy, which was a hit at the recent festival of Italian cinema. He takes us to parts of Venice that are off the beaten tourist track, showing audiences another, less familiar view of this city. Luca Bigazzi’s superb cinematography is another plus for this delightful film. It is obvious that Soldini and co-writer Doriana Leondeff have a great affection for these characters, and the writing is laced with warmth and honesty as well as humour.
The performances from the ensemble cast are wonderful, and bring these characters to life. Especially good though is veteran stage actress Maglietta, who is both sympathetic and strong in the lead, and gives the film much of its warmth and charm. Ganz lends a touching, haunted quality to his performance as the waiter who recites epic verse, while Battiston provides some wonderful humour as the incompetent reluctant detective.
Bread And Tulips is a wonderful romantic comedy full of rich insight, tenderness, and subtle humour that should appeal to a wide audience.