An enormous commercial and critical hit on its release in Italy back in 2000, this enjoyably whimsical romantic comedy from Milanese director Silvio Soldini stars Licia Maglietta as the unfulfilled fortysomething housewife Rosalba, who falls for a melancholic Icelandic waiter Fernando (Downfall's Bruno Ganz) during an unexpected sojourn in Venice. With its dream sequences, eccentric supporting characters, and bitter-sweet sensibilities, Bread And Tulips follows its own singular path, whilst mostly retaining a fairy-tale charm.
Soldini and his co-screenwriter Doriana Leondeff explore and contrast two very different worlds in Bread And Tulips. Firstly there's the materially comfortable existence left behind by Rosalba in Pescara, and exemplified by her philandering spouse Mimmo and his bathroom fittings business. Secondly there's the bohemian milieu she discovers in Venice, built on artistic creativity, romance and mutual support. It's in this environment that she encounters not only the poetry-loving Fernando, but also an anarchist florist who gives her a job, and a holistic masseuse, who falls for the hapless investigator (Battiston) sent by Mimmo to track Rosalba down.
"A WARMLY APPEALING CENTRAL PERFORMANCE"
Director of photography Luca Bigazzi wisely avoids picture-postcard images of Venice, instead preferring to shoot in buildings, alleys and squares that lie off the beaten trail. If the film's humour can seem self-consciously quirky, there still a warmly appealing central performance from Maglietta, as the woman blossoming in confidence and happiness before our eyes. The title incidentally is adapted from a slogan used by striking American textile workers, which highlights the theme of emotional nourishment - "Souls, just like bodies, can die of hunger. Give us bread, but give us roses too!"
In Italian with English subtitles.