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Bread And Tulips
Reviewed by Dennis Morton

It's in the nature of some traps that the trapped aren't aware of their captivity. Certain marriages might qualify. 
Imagine you were, among other things, a mother and a 'housewife'.  You've just returned from what started out as another in a long series of annual outings with your extended-family, much of which took place on a tour bus, replete with an Italian version of a Tupper Ware Party. 
You might have a tough time recognizing that being excluded from converastion at the dinner table you'd prepared, then being ignored in bed by your husband was anything out of the ordinary. And an afternoon spent ironing his shirts and gorging on insipid soap operas might seem quite normal. The bars of your quotidian cage would be invisible and no cause for alarm.
Maybe you'd need a change in perspective to see what was really happening.
What if, while taking care of business at a pit stop on the highway, you dropped an earring in the toilet bowl and by the time you'd retreived it, the tour bus, and your large family, oblivious of your absence, rambled down the road without you? Would that minor, unanticipated event be enough to precipitate a major turn on the path of your life? 
I won't answer that question for you. You'll have to see "Bread And Tulips", an Italian import playing at Cinema 9 in downtown Santa Cruz for the answer.
But I will suggest it's worth the trip. I liked "Bread And Tulips". And I salute Cinema 9 for its willingness to take a chance on a movie without Hollywood pedigrees. Don't wait too long, though. Like most small films
without pyrotechnics, massive bloodshed, and mega-stars, this humane and funny movie won't have commercial legs in America. A country urged by its leaders to shop its way out of mourning, grief and recession is not fertile ground for the likes of "Bread And Tulips".
The intersection of choice and chance is becoming a familiar address in current cinema. One of this year's best films, "The Princess And The Warrior" reeled us artfully there, and "Bread And Tulips", at a more liesurely pace, drops us off at the corner.
We spend most of the movie in a Venice you won't find on postcards. Oil refineries, a cubby hole florist shop, a canal-buoyed flea bag hotel that defies the laws of maritime physics and actually floats,  even a wall decorated by a micturating canine, become a neighborhood that grows on us. Mostly, of course, because of the folks who live there.
Rosalba and Fernando are the primary protagonists, but a portly plummer named Constantine, who's read 285 and a half detective books, inveigles his way into our affections, too. 
Music and food, flowers and infidelity, loneliness and despair, join a cast whose names are unfamiliar to me. "Bread And Tulips" is a roadtrip to self-discovery. 
I particularly enjoyed the many small narrative leaps undertaken by the director, Silvio Soldini. The story is linear but where detail can be dispensed with, it is. And a few short dream sequences spice an already tasty cinematic offering. 
I suspect the cranky among us will wish for more than "Bread And Tulips" delivers. But this isn't a banquet. This is a good meal. Take your bib to the movies while you can. I've a feeling this diminutive feast won't
last long.
For The Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.

Copyright Dennis Morton 2001