Bread and Tulips
Starring Licia Mglietta, Bruno Ganz
My Rating:

A truly delightful romantic comedy.

Bitable Bytes:
"...My Favorite Movie!"
"Comedic Moments Embellish the Romance!"
"Made Me Giggle"
"I recommend it unreservedly."

What to do while watching:
Cut your toenails.

What to eat while watching:
Leftover pasta.

Friends and readers, I want to extend a warm thank you to all who have sent in their input regarding my top picks list. Many people had very nice things to say, and many made suggestions of films I should see prior to the next edition of that list. I do appreciate these as I have often been turned onto films that I would otherwise have never known about. It is inescapably true that so many fantastic movies never get the attention that the blockbusters hog. This is true of many art forms, but I digress.

I am also very pleased to flaunt the new look of my home page. As a bonus, my top picks list will always be available for browsing. O! there are so many more, aren't there? It's just impossible to get a best movies list down to a mere hundred and fifty or so. I saw Bugsy Malone last week and remembered just how great a film that was, especially when I was younger.

You may have noticed that my favorite movie of all time is Wings of Desire, the pinnacle of story, acting, film-making, music and the crossing of all these forms. Wings stars Bruno Ganz, who I was delighted to see in Bread and Tulips in a supporting role. The film was recommended to me by one Elizabeth Price, and I can certainly trust her to recommend another.

B&T begins with a family on tour in Greece (it's an Italian film). Tourism is rarely pretty, and this, indeed, is the sweaty, crabby, too-big family outing that gives touring its bad name. The family is rude and careless, so much so that they leave mama behind at one of the rest stops. Rosalba (Licia Maglietta) is her usual flustered self at first, but her husband's misplaced anger over the phone polarizes something in her. She decides not to catch up with the family, but just to return home by hitchhiking. And as she does, she hooks up with someone driving to Venice and decides to blow off home altogether and find herself in that romantic city of canals.

It's a sort of mid-life crisis, I suppose, not unlike the story in the English film, Shirley Valentine, or even the American Thelma and Louise without all the extra melodrama. In B&T, Rosalba finds herself brightening the corners of Venice during her undelineated stay. She befriends a lonely man in a café and a new-age masseuse in her apartment. She gets hired by a cantankerous florist and enjoys her life away from life just fine.

She may never return home except that a sister in law spots her one day and lays enough guilt on her to get her to go home again. She takes readily enough to the familiar patterns of the house frau, but her life in Venice beckons her so thoroughly that she must eventually learn to live both lives. She has to be there for her adolescent sons, and also wants to keep Bruno Ganz, the lonely Venetian, in her life.

The love story is likeable in its verisimilitude. The people are regular folks and they deal with the usual foibles of shyness, near-sightedness and misunderstanding. Perhaps this is what makes the story so juicy. Only one episode of "love at first sight" threw off the believability for me--not that I don't believe in love at first sight, but this particular instance didn't ring totally true for me, even though it made me giggle with its charm.

In general, though, the film delights with its non-tourist tour of Venice and its own delight in its characters. The leads are great to watch: Both Maglietta and Ganz are the kind of actors that never remind you that you're watching actors and not real people. The corpulent private dick hired by hubby to track wifey reminds me, somehow, of the character Ignacius O'Reilly from the novel Confederacy of Dunces by J.K. Toole. His many comedic moments, which stem naturally from the story line, embellish the romance nicely without clouding it in slapstick.

I recommend it unreservedly.

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For your collection: Bread and Tulips (VHS), Bread and Tulips (DVD).

Gooden's Listening to: Scott Joplin's Complete Works (Richard Zimmerman, pianist)

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