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:: Pane e Tulipani (Bread

It’s a welcome change to see an Italian film screen in Australia. The initiative of bringing an Italian Film Festival in Melbourne and Sydney is to be commended and “Pane E Tulipani” opened the recent event. Bringing a joyful lightness to the screen, this film is full of colours and music. The colour of the Venice surroundings, though not the usual postcard features, plus the music for such a landscape make it a perfect setting for a warm, crowd-pleasing story – a place of fantasy but also of pure and historical context. 

Whilst on a tour, one of the coach passengers, Rosalba (Licia Maglietta), a housewife from Pescara, is forgotten by her absent-minded family in a roadside café. Instead of waiting for her husband and sons to return, she feels an air of freshness and decides to take advantage of her “freedom” and journey around. She heads to Venice for an expectant short stay in experiencing the pleasures it offers. Instead, she walks into a café, meets a waiter Fernando (Bruno Ganz), who offers her accommodation above the café on the couch in his dining room. She then finds a job in a florist. She is now encountering a series of eccentric people in a totally new environment and quality of life. Rosalba confronts these challenges with an engaging personality and purpose. She decides to stay indefinitely and becomes involved in a series of fascinating scenarios; warm and tender moments as well as difficult ones. 

“Pane E Tulipani” is a heart-warming story that pleases with an abundance of laughs and sentiment. Director Silvio Soldini fits a charming, uncomplicated story into our senses, much of it due to the wonderful acting performances of Licia Maglietta and Wim Wenders’ regular Bruno Ganz. Licia gives Rosalba the spark and sincerity to encounter her quest for self-exploration and in changing her housewife routine. Bruno Ganz gives a top-class performance as Fernando, the sentimental, concise-speaking man, who supports Rosalba’s changed lifestyle.

This film has been a huge hit in Italy and won nine Davide di Donatello Awards in 2000, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress. They are the Italian Oscar equivalents. Soldini deserves credit for this honest, humorous film of special characters and touching realism. It has a rare charm.