Bread and Tulips [Pane et Tulipani]
by Del Harvey
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A family on their annual vacation. The anxious, easily excitable father, whose voice is always a notch above a shout. Two teenaged sons, one almost out of the house, he’s so independent. And Mom, holding all of them together while she has become a mess. What is worse, she has accepted this fate, and she’s not even aware that this has happened to her. They are on a bus tour, visiting another part of their home country, seemingly something they do every year. One of those routines meant to promote relaxation but which has become so commonplace that it is almost a duty. Not unlike picking up after the kids.
While returning to her seat on the bus, Mom (played wonderfully by Licia Maglietta), drops a recent purchase—a ceramic jar with a sun and moon face on the lid. The lid breaks in half and she makes a tsking sound. When the bus makes one of its many tourist stops she goes to the restroom and, freak accident or kismet, her wedding ring falls off her finger and into the toilet bowl. While she struggles to remove it, the bus leaves without her. When her husband calls on his cell phone over an hour later, all he can do is yell and blame her for interfering with the tour. Deciding she needs a vacation all her own, she takes a ride offered by a woman whose messiness is not unlike her own.
Thus begins the marvelous journey of Rosalba Marletta. Bread and Tulips is deceptively straightforward at first. But the quirky twists and turns soon have you immersed in the fate of this woman and the people she meets, including the mysterious Fernando Girasoli (Bruno Ganz—Wings of Desire, The American Friend) from Iceland. He seems to have a son, he owns an accordion but does not play, and has the habit of leaving a hangman’s noose out just in case he feels the need to use it. There is Grazia (Marina Massironi), the holistic masseuse who lives next door. And Fermo, the old man who’s a whiz at horticulture and owns a popular flower shop, also spouts anarchic dictums at the oddest moments. And there is Constantin (Giuseppe Battiston), a 280 pound plumber whose love of mystery novels prompts Rosalba’s husband to hire him as detective and sends him sniffing after his errant wife.
They glide through the canals and sidestreets of Venice towards a surprise ending that is uplifting and whimsical. And, as much as I loathe the word in film reviews, Director Silvio Soldini has crafted a magical film that fully represents life’s little surprises and the happiest moments of love, all of which make this experience called life something very special.
The original soundtrack music by Giovanni Vinosta is absolutely wonderful, setting the right moods when required and acting as almost another dimension of the film in doing so. The direction is very good, and compliments the very capabale staging of this ensemble piece. Bread and Tulips was quite ably co-written by Doriana Leondeff and Soldini.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly. He lives in Chicago and is a devout Bears fan, and therefore deserving of our sympathy.
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