Bread and Tulips

A review of Bread and Tulips by Rob Mason

The theme of this movie is about human relationships and how a wife discovers that her husband no longer has the same feeling for her that he once did.  The husband, wife and Mimmo's mistress in this movie are:
Mimmo Barletta (Antonio Catania)

Rosalba Barletta: Mimmo's accordian playing wife (Licia Maglietta)

Ketty: Mimmo's mistress (Vitalba Andrea) 

Rosalba: married at 21 but now in her late 40’s with two teenage sons 18 and 16 is no longer happy. She is vague and uncertain about herself and lacks self-confidence which is possibly atributable to the aggressiveness of her husband’s behaviour towards her and the way he makes fun of her in front of others.   She is forever dropping things on the bus and in the home, her memory is not so good either, she is unable to remember when her train or bus leaves the station.

 The family have been on holiday and are returning home.  The bus they are on is parked at a rest stop but when it leaves to continue the journey, Rosabla is left behind in the lady’s room. Her husband calls to yell at her and tell her to wait for them. She doesn't, instead she goes to Venice for a holiday of her own. In truth, she is trying to break-away from her husband and his aggressive manner.

The first night in Venice she eats dinner at a lovely restaurant with a nice waiter, Fernando (Bruno Ganz) Fernando has a quiet disposition which Rosalba responds too.
The following day she misses her train and decides to spend yet another night in Venice. Who can blame her? When she does return Mimmo will be sure to castigate her for missing both trains, however he needs her back to clean the house. Mimmo, a man who has a mistress, his own sister-in-law, Ketty but she refuses to do the housework, so he needs Rosalba to come back.

The problem is that Mimmo the husband has become successful in the plumbing business and now looks down on Rosalba his wife whom he treats with disdain.  The pressure of the daily running of his business with all its associated problems leaves him short tempered and he quickly becomes exasperated with Rosalba when she makes mistakes around the home. Another significant factor that works against matrimonial harmony between them is the fact that Mimmo is having a love affair with Ketty, his sister-in-law.  

Ketty (Mimmo’s mistress) shows up at Fermo's shop, where Rosalba is working. Ketty tells Rosalba she's selfish and a terrible mother and that Nic, her youngest son, is on drugs. Ketty has a motive for seeing Rosabla as it seems she would like to assume Rosalba’s relationship with Mimmo and live with him openly as man and wife.  Based on Mimmos actions it appears he would also prefer this re-arrangement.
Rosalba rushes home to take care of her son. She selflessly gives up her happiness to help him.  However, at home Rosalba is miserable. She plays the role of homemaker and dutiful wife and mother, Fernando misses her. He can't sleep.  He just stares at the last batch of tulips that Rosalba left there. He used to leave her breakfasts full of lovely bread, hence the title bread and tulips. Constantino, the plumber/detective Mimmo originally sent to find Rosalba, urges Fernando to go after his love. He and Grazia go with him in Fermo's truck to collect Rosalba.

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.

Actually, marriage is intrinsically one sided and was once described by Friedrich Engels as being in the same relationship as  the bourgeoisie are to the proletariat.

The title of the film “Bread and Tulips” 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!"
Director: Silvio Soldini
Music composed by: Giovanni Venosta
Screenplay: Silvio Soldini, Doriana Leondeff

Length  of  movie 1 hour 10 minutes