Bread and Chocolate (1974)

Bread and Chocolate (1974)

“Why do the foreigners dislike us Italians so much?”

An Italian immigrant (Nino Manfredi) struggles to earn a living in Switzerland.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Black Comedy
  • Immigrants and Immigration
  • Italian Films
  • Race Relations

Writer/director Franco Brusati’s serio-comic rendering of the travails and prejudices experienced by immigrants in Switzerland is a mixed bag of missed opportunities and keenly felt insights. Brusati is at his best when portraying the palpably felt hierarchy between “Aryan” Swiss and “others” — most memorably in a truly hilarious montage showcasing a bevy of blonde teenagers cavorting idyllically on the grounds outside of a chicken coop, where Manfredi and his dark-haired compatriots are being housed like animals. Other vignettes, however — including much of what occurs during Nino’s initial employment as a waiter at a high-end resort — fall mostly flat, and fail to generate the type of humor they’re aiming for. Meanwhile, Nino’s would-be romance with a Greek neighbor (Anna Karina) has potential but doesn’t really go anywhere; it seems calculated merely to include some “necessary” romantic tension, and to remind us that life is tough for ALL immigrants in Switzerland, not just Italians. Film fanatics will probably be curious to check out this award-winning film, and it’s worth a look — but it’s not required viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Nino Manfredi as Nino
  • Several inspired sequences

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Bread and Chocolate (1974)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see; though it won a few awards so it may hold some interest for those who follow award-winning foreign films.

    I agree that the film is uneven. The thought came to me that perhaps it wasn’t the wisest idea to focus on the script as mainly a comedy (although its makers may very well think of it as a serio-comedy). The theme is a bit too somber (it seems to me) to take too much time treating it lightly. (For example, I think that’s why much of the early section in the restaurant falls flat.)

    It’s rather common in film to use comedy as a means to ‘help the medicine go down’; to allow a serious topic to be accepted more easily. But I don’t think that tactic was necessary in the case of this film.

    That’s not to say that the film needed to be completely serious. Certain sections (i.e., when Manfredi suddenly finds himself participating in a drag show with a few of his hetero fellow countrymen – a particularly successful sequence) could have remained as is, for some needed comic relief. But the balance seems tipped against the film.

    I also agree that Karina’s role should have been thought-out better. It does have potential in the story but – even though an attempt is made to integrate her more towards the end – it seems that ball was dropped so that the film could strengthen its sidebar culture-clash statement.

    The title is a good one: bread = barely surviving, and chocolate = living well.

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