Wednesday, February 1, 2012

100 Movies - No. 18: The Bicycle Thief / Bicycle Thieves

18. The Bicycle Thief / Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Drama, Crime, 93 minutes, Italian Language
Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Starring Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola and Lianella Carell

This film shouldn't work. The story is so simple and the actors aren't professionals. But I kept hearing about the film and gave it a try when I found a copy at my local library. That proved to be one of my better decisions.

The story is set in post-war Rome. Jobs are scarce and people queue desperately each day for the chance to earn enough money to feed their families. Antonio Ricci (Maggiorani) accepts a job one morning, but one of the requirements is a bicycle. Although his has been pawned, he lies and says that he has one. His wife helps him pawn other items and he manages to get the bicycle back. That doesn't sound like much of an event, but it's a triumphant moment in the film.

Antonio is so happy to have the job hanging posters and the joy and relief is evident on his face. We feel happy for him. The problem is, someone steals his bicycle. By this point, we are fully invested in the story and the loss feels personal. We realize how important the bicycle is to his survival. The police don't seem interested so Antonio searches the streets with his son.

The film is ranked No. 85 in IMDBs Top 250 at the time of writing and not one of the films above it has fewer votes. It's a shame that it hasn't been seen by more people. I understand that it's over 60 years old, in black and white, and that the language is Italian, but the story is so pure that it's worth seeing. Let's hope for a Criterion Blu-ray release in the near future.

If you like The Bicycle Thief:

Other notable De Sica films include Umberto D and Shoeshine. The honesty of the story also reminds me of the previously listed 400 Blows.

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