The film that opens the Italian Film Festival 2000 at the Palace Norton St. in Sydney on Nov 30 and Cinema Como in Melbourne on Dec 1 is a sweet little comedy in the tradition of Shirley Valentine.Rosalba (LICIA MAGLIETTA) is a quietly dignified housewife in her early forties, whoafter a lifetime of doing exactly what is expected of her and staying inconspicuously in the background, finally decides to do something for herself after her husband and almost adult sons, leave her behind accidentally at a rest stop, while on a rather ghastly coach tour of Roman ruins.
Some time later her husband realises that she is missing, tracks her down by phoning the rest stop and having her paged, but he is so rude and unsympathetic, Rosalba decides not to wait for him to collect her. She decides on a whim to hitch a ride back home, and on her way decides, on another whim, as she has never been to Venice, to make a brief detour. Needless to say, the detour turns out to be far less brief than she intended or expected.
In Venice's side alleys, Rosalba meets a charming bunch of eccentrics. Fernando (BRUNO GANZ), originally from Iceland and a waiter in a cheap cafe, offers his couch to Rosalba after she misses her train home and doesn't have enough money for a hotel. The next day, as she is about to return home, she finds employment at a small florist shop run by an old anarchist, and decides to stay indefinitely.
Apparently BREAD AND TULIPS has won a swag of awards, and I can see why. It is like good inexpensive food and wine, that satisfies your appetite, never overwhelms the palate, and leaves a lovely taste in your mouth. Not that it is without some silliness, as well as some heavy handed symbolism that a person would have to be particularly thick to miss.Maglietta's solid understated performance holds it all together and she is supported beautifully by Ganz. Basically, BREAD AND TULIPS, is a charming, convoluted, comic fairy tale about finding happiness by accident.--Cindy Kitt Vogelsang