“Fernando: I hope it’s to your liking.“
“Always better than a Chinese.“
” I am sorry to contradict you, madam, but the Chinese are the greatest restaurateurs in the world.“
Last week I subscribed to MUBI, a curated streaming service that showcases a series of movies from emerging and established filmmakers on a global scale. With the beginning of the new year, MUBI is offering a subscription discount; since I have always been curious about this streaming platform because I love what I like to call “cinéma d’auteur” (arthouse cinema), I decided to subscribe and am very happy about the service.
There are hundreds and hundreds of movies to peruse on MUBI and the platform also notifies you when new ones are available or when they are about to expire. This way I came across an Italian movie that I had previously heard about, a little gem from 2000 titled Bread and Tulips (Pane e Tulipani in Italian) and directed by Silvio Soldini. The movie won critical acclaim when it first came out and it is now considered one of Italy’s best cult movies. ever made; it was restored by Istituto Luce-Cinecittà in 2020 and its restoration enhanced even more the beautiful photography by cinematographer Luca Bigazzi, who also worked in every movie directed by Paolo Sorrentino.
Bread and Tulips is the story of Rosalba, a neglected housewife who is left behind by her family in a highway café while on a bus trip. At first she hitch-hikes trying to get back home but then she meets a series of bizarre characters, including a boy to whom she confides that she has never been to Venice and that she would like to visit the city. Having arrived in Venice, Rosalba comes into contact with various local characters, even finding work as a florist’s helper; not only is her life influenced by these people, but their lives are also influenced by her. All this happens as her husband tries to bring her back to Pescara, where she is from, by having a plumber who improvises as an investigator track her down.
The film is introspective while also having the appearance of a modern fairy tale (in one scene I noticed a subtle reference to Cinderella); it promotes the importance of freedom and not being trapped by social conventions that make us dissatisfied, unhappy and don’t make us feel like we matter. It is a journey of self-discovery and the world outside, as it shows how sometimes life redirects us towards a more authentic path that gives purpose to our existence.
The film’s greatness is mainly due to the talented cast. Licia Maglietta as the protagonist Rosalba gives depth to her character and makes it easy for the audience to identify with her; you find yourself rooting for her, hoping that she will not be forced to return to a life in which she does not feel fulfilled. Swiss actor Bruno Ganz is immense as the Icelandic waiter who stands by the protagonist, and comic actress Marina Massironi is hilarious as a holistic masseuse. The tulips in the title refer to a sentence in which the florist explains that everyone thinks these flowers come from Holland, whereas they are Persian. Hence the comparison with Rosalba, who appears to everyone in one way, while her true essence is totally opposite and is rediscovered only by the people who truly care about her.
The dialogues are brilliant and the locations are wonderful because you get to see the streets and canals of Venice in all their beauty; it is a quintessentially Italian movie that rightfully joins the ranks of the best films produced in Europe over the years. It was in fact co-produced with Amka Films, one of the most prestigious production companies in Switzerland that has produced numerous films through the years (like the documentary about the Swiss hard rock band Gotthard, which I mentioned in my article about my experience at the 70th Locarno Film Festival).
Bread and Tulips has won numerous awards after its theatrical release, including a huge number of David di Donatello Awards (the equivalent of the Oscars in Italy), and was highly appreciated abroad, as it was also presented at the 53rd Cannes Film Festival in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (Directors’ Fortnight).
OTHER MOVIES YOU MAY LIKE: if you enjoyed Bread and Tulips and are looking for similar films you might enjoy The Last Kiss(2001), an Italian film that has many melancholic and romantic overtones, dealing with themes such as loneliness, betrayal and human nature. The film stars Stefano Accorsi as the main character; he is one of the best Italian actors around who is also among my favorites.
I highly recommend an American coming-of-age movie that I particularly love, titled How To Make An American Quilt (1995), which is very emotional and deals with friendship, romance and stereotypes.
You might also like Moonstruck (1987), which I found very romantic and touching when I first saw it a few years ago. Similar films include Under The Tuscan Sun (2003), which also shows the beauty of Italy in a sentimental atmosphere, and The Holiday (2006), which is among the best American romantic comedies of the 21st century (my mother and I are fans of it and like to rewatch it from time to time).
All of these films are similar to Bread and Tulips in terms of themes and emotions so if you like the genre I am sure you will enjoy some of these titles, if not all of them.
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