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When Rosalba Barletta (Licia Maglietta), an Italian housewife, accidentally gets separated from her family while on holiday, she decides to hitchhike and spend some rare time by herself, ending up in Venice. She has no money and nowhere to go, until the waiter who serves her, Fernando (Bruno Ganz), offers her his spare room for the night. Although she planned to spend only a couple of days in Venice, Rosalba soon finds a job in a florist shop and begins to build a new life for herself. But when she phones her husband Mimmo (Antonia Barletta) and tells him what she's doing, he's horrified and begins plotting ways to bring her back with the assistance of Costantino (Giuseppe Battiston), who he hires to find his wife.

"A dear friend was talking about Bread and Tulips and described it in glowing terms, boasting not only the gorgeous Licia Maglietta, but Venice to boot! And once you have seen this absolutely delightful comedy with farcical elements, you will know what I mean! It’s Shirley Valentine goes to Venice – sort of, whose characters are reminiscent at times of those in that wonderful French farce, The Dinner Game plus a touch of There's Something About Mary. The story is simply structured, beautifully told, while the characters feel very real and multi-layered. As for Maglietta, it’s easy to fall in love with her – she exudes warmth, sincerity, while her beauty is far more than skin deep. If you love Venice – and who doesn’t? – you’ll enjoy discovering its back streets, it’s flavours and character. The first glimpse we get of the city of canals is a reflection in Rosalba’s sunglasses, when we spy the famous tower in St Marco Square. In fact we don’t get to see much of the usual tourist haunts; with Rosalba, we are discovering the real Venice, from the point of view of someone who is making a go of living there. The humour is accumulative and evolves very naturally with its characters and how the plot. We get a satisfying insight – a snapshot – into the lives of all the main characters; the lonely restaurateur landlord who keeps a hangman’s noose under the bed; the needy new age masseuse; the gruff florist shop owner who won’t let customers buy the flowers of their choice; the mistress who refuses to iron the shirts while the wife’s away…. Giuseppe Battiston steals all the scenes, as Costantino, the plumber cum detective (Inspector Clouseau like), whose doting mother follows him everywhere on his mobile phone. And to make matters worse (or funnier), its ring sounds like The Flight of the Bumble Bee. Uplifting and deliciously funny, Bread and Tulips is a total delight."
Louise Keller

"This is such a sweet, painless movie I felt guilty about not liking it more. The plot - a downtrodden housewife runs away to find a more fulfilling life - is a guaranteed audience-pleaser. The photography gets maximum value out of both the cobbled alleys of Venice and the spacious blue skies of an Italian summer. And the actors are pros who know how to make the material work for them (Bruno Ganz may be a bit grizzled to play a romantic lead, but he's younger than Jack Nicholson was in As Good As It Gets). So what's the problem? Only that the film has no substance beyond its eagerness to please. As the too-easy ending shows, there's no pressure on the story to take us anywhere in particular. Events unfold blithely but haphazardly, as if comedy wasn't really worth taking pains about, or as if light entertainment were somehow the opposite of serious art (the work of cinema's great entertainers, from Ernst Lubitsch to Pedro Almodovar, proves otherwise). The humour is the kind that now gets called 'quirky,' though the technique is far older than the word. As in the novels of Charles Dickens, each subsidiary character is defined by a particular hobby-horse or verbal tic. The waiter played by Ganz is exaggeratedly formal and quotes medieval poetry, another character is an unlikely history buff, a third is obsessed with detective stories, etc. Again, there's nothing wrong in principle with this kind of whimsy, but the particular traits often seem pasted on - too arbitrary to be either funny or plausible. Probably the jokes work better in the original Italian, though the subtitles are nicely written and Ganz's eccentric courtly speech still gets laughs when translated."
Jake Wilson

"I share Louise’s enthusiasm, yet I also agree with Jake’s more jaded view; it is indeed a whimsical work, yet it has the power to entertain and engage for a couple of hours of painless fun. It may be true that the film is high class Italian corn, but its redemption comes from the deeply convincing central performance of Licia Maglietta and the geniality of the setting (Venice). The trigger for the action – holidaying family leaves on the bus without mum after a comfort stop – is superbly set up and executed, instantly establishing not only Rosalba’s character but the husband, whose attitude to her is the cause of her deep-seated unhappiness with her life. Nothing new, sure, but nothing IS new. It’s not what story you tell, but how you tell it, I recall from one wise writer of my acquaintance. Heavy with festival and audience accolades and awards, Bread and Tulips plays well, as they say in movie jargon, and does so because director Soldini believes in and loves his characters, as do his actors. A case of performance rescuing a cliché, perhaps."
Andrew L. Urban

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BREAD AND TULIPS (M) Pane e Tulipani

CAST: Licia Maglietta, Bruno Ganz, Marina Massironi, Giuseppe Battiston, Felice Andreasi, Antonio Catania

DIRECTOR: Silvio Soldini

PRODUCER: Daniele Maggioni

SCRIPT: Doriana Leondeff, Silvio Soldini


EDITOR: Carlotta Cristiani

MUSIC: Giovanni Venosta


RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 18, 2001 (Sydney, Melbourne)

VIDEO RELEASE: December 4, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

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