The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #8 March / April 2014
At the Cinema
Pane e Tulipani - Bread and Tulips
by Erik Zidowecki
March / April 2014 | 

This months review is about a simple romantic comedy from Italy called Pane e Tulipani (Bread and Tulips). The lead character is an Italian housewife named Rosalba who lives in Pescara with her two sons and her husband, Mimmo.

We first see the family on a vacation, visiting some ruins with a group of other tourists. Watching them, they seem to be like the average family might be: the father is loud and in charge, telling everyone what to do; the teenage sons are basically in their own little worlds, not wanting to listen to what anyone else is saying and acting like they don't really want to be there; the mother is trying to make sure everyone is safe and happy. We can soon see, however, that despite her constant smiles, Rosalba is not really happy. She seems worn out, used and neglected.

When the tour bus stops at a rest station, Rosalba accidentally drops an earing in the toilet of a restroom, and by the time she retrieves it, she finds the entire tour, including her family, have taken off again. When she finally manages to reach the rest of the family by phone, Mimmo is furious and starts yelling at her, blaming her for everything and telling her to stay there. You get the feeling this is the normal way their relationship works.

Rosalba and Grazia spending some time together as friends.

Disheartened, Rosalba sits on the steps outside the station, watching people. One bumbling woman catches her eye and imagination, and she gets a ride with the woman toward her home, planning to hitchhike her way back instead of waiting any longer to be rescued. Next car she gets in is being driven by a man going to Venice. She has never been to Venice, and decides maybe, since the family is on vacation already, she should visit it. As they pass the exit that goes to Pescara, Rosalba's eyes light up and smiles. She is tasting a bit of freedom and feeling rebellious.

After they arrive, she finds a small hotel to spend the night in, planning to just see a little of Venice then return home the next day. When she has dinner at the local restaurant, she meets the maitre d', Fernando, and they exchange some polite words, as she is still very shy about being out on her own alone. She is terrified yet thrilled at having her own adventure, without the rest of the family.

Not everything is good, however. She calls her husband and gets yelled at again. The hotel she is in is also closing, with the night she is there being the last night it will be open.

The film gives us a look at these simple lives in Italy, with people finding their own ways.

Rosalba spends the next day site-seeing, enjoying the wonders of Venice, even writing a postcard home. She is so caught up in it, however, that she misses the evening train back to Pescara, and now she has a problem. She has little money left, since all she had to start with was what remained of her vacation spending money, and she also has no place to stay now. She goes back to the restaurant for dinner, then asks Fernando where she might find a place to stay with the little money she has left. He says there is no place available for what she has, but he does have some space in a room in his apartment, and so he sets her up there for the night.

The next day, Rosalba awakens to a table set with breakfast and a note from Fernando, asking her to leave the keys in the post box. By now, she is feeling more confident with her ability to handle things as she heads to the train station.

Venice has trapped her with its charms, though, and she finds herself accepting a "Help Wanted" position in a florist shop. Now with an income, she returns at night to the apartment, meets another of tenants, Grazia, and Fernando moves her into another room where she can stay for a longer amount of time. Rosalba is on her own vacation... from her family.

Rosalba sneaking away while Constantino is on the phone with his mother.

Soon she is making a place for herself in the others' lives and, at the risk of sounding cliche, finding herself again. But while things are going well for her, things at home are not good. We learn now that Mimmo has a mistress, and has had her for a few years. No one else in the house will do any cleaning or take care of things. Mimmo, desperate to have things back to the way they were, hires a plumber, Costantino, (who is an avid fan of detective novels) to act as a private investigator to track down his wife. Mimmo is too cheap to hire a real detective.

Surprisingly, Costantino manages to find Rosalba after he posts pictures of her everywhere. The pictures get the attention of Fernando, who is now worried about what kind of person has brought into this life if she is being pursued by a detective. Rosalba explains, then confronts Costantino.

As it should be for a comedy, every character is slightly odd in their own ways while still having an endearing charm. No one, with perhaps the exception of Mimmo (who is essentially the villain of the movie), seems really to be pushing events in any direction; they just happen, as does life. Fernando and Rosalba learn more and more about each other, and suddenly find themselves in love, yet not completely ready to admit that. Only when Rosalba leaves Venice (having been found and admonished by Mimmo's mistress for "abandoning" her family) do they fully understand what they have found.

Fernando and Rosalba, realizing how much fun they have together.

The film gives us a look at these simple lives in Italy, with people finding their own ways. There are plenty of humorous scenes, including some rather odd ones when Rosalba dreams.

One of the most touching scenes for me is when we first see how lost Fernando is without Rosalba. He is sitting at his kitchen table with a vase of tulips on it (Rosalba brought fresh flowers home each day from the florist). As we watch, one of the petals peels off and thumps to the table, as if the flowers are also dying slowly without her. In a later scene, we see Fernando at the same table, but now, all the pedals of the tulips have fallen except one, and the fallen ones have been collected in a bowl on the table. It is both sad and funny at the same time.

Pane e Tulipani is a beautifully done film, full of heart and humour along with a touch of sadness. Everyone at times wonders how else their life could be, but few actually get a chance to "go on holiday" to learn. I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone.PT

At The Cinema - Pane e Tulipani - Bread and Tulips
Writer: Erik Zidowecki
• "Bread and Tulips" Internet Movie Database <>
• "Bread and Tulips" Wikipedia <>
All images are copyright Istituto Luce, Rai Cinemafiction, Amka Films Productions, Monogatari, Televisione Svizzera Italiana (TSI)

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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