Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel


Directed by Franco Brusati. Written by Brusati, Iaia Fiastri, Nino Manfredi, from a story by Brusati. Photography, Luciano Tovoli. Editing, Mario Morra. Music, Daniel Patrucci. Cast: Nino Manfredi (Nino), Anna Karina (Elena), et al. 107 min. Not rated.
A prize-winning, bittersweet comedy about an Italian bungling immigrant-worker in Switzerland. Nino goes to the land of chocolate to do better than his impoverished existence in Italy. The film becomes a satire of both the Swiss and the Italians, the former with their sense of order, propriety and property, the latter messy and with feelings of inferiority. In ways that sometimes are a bit surreal, we get a series of hilarious happenings, often exaggerated, sometimes brutal or gross, generally effective.

In Jean Renoir's "The Rules of the Game," the poacher played by Julien Carette dreams of becoming a butler ("because of the uniform"). Here, Manfredi's ambition is to become a waiter. He does get a butlering job to a weird man, but it does not last long. After this it's one damn thing after another.

The film is built on energetically directed gut humor at the service of social protest. Yet, cleverly, the hero/anti-hero is not simplified as the smart and/or able man victimized by society. A flawed, not-quite-grown up though likable character, Nino himself is also responsible for his travails. In episode after episode his Italianness is comically as well as touchingly contrasted with the surrounding Helvetics.

If the title's Chocolate stands for a land of plenty, Bread refers to basic necessities, like those in the Roman expression "bread and circus games." We get plenty of the latter in this movie, in the shape of the misadventures of shiftless Nino.

Writer-director Brusati was a familiar figure in the Italian film scene, yet had to wait until this movie to achieve fame abroad. His next international success, though not on a par with "Bread and Chocolate"'s, was "To Forget Venice." (Edwin Jahiel)

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel