Some people refer to themselves as “cinema purist” or what-have-you and sincerely enjoy watching all films. I view myself as maybe a step above a regular film viewer, but still far below a “purist.” As such, foreign films remain tough for me to watch. Throw in the fact that said foreign film is over 72 years old, and it’s difficult to imagine that the story will resonate with someone like myself. The Bicycle Thief, however, is viewed as a classic film (even mentioned by Leonardo DiCaprio as one of his all-time favorites) and, thus, should retain much of it’s power and mystique all these years later.
Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief is about Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani), a family man trying to find employment in post-war Rome. When Antonio is offered a job, he is told he must have a bicycle to reach said job. Having just had his bicycle pawned, Antonio and his wife Maria (Lianella Carell) desperately pawn their bed sheets in exchange for its return. While working (hanging posters on buildings) the bicycle is stolen again by a local youth. The rest of the film involves Antonio and his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) searching for the bike and its hijacker, hoping for a bit of their bad luck to turn around.
I’d like to start by warning that if you’re looking for a film about a family’s will triumphing over adversities, look elsewhere. I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying that, while entertaining, the film is a major bummer. The Bicycle Thief’s style has been called “Italian neorealistic,” which placed the spotlight directly on the working class of the time and the hardships they faced. De Sica gives the film an even more gritty and realistic feel by filming on location using non-actors (Maggiorani was apparently a factory worker before playing the lead here).
While it might not be the cheeriest movie I’ve ever watched, it’s the realism of The Bicycle Thief that easily keeps it at the top of critics’ lists all these many years later. Your heart breaks for this poor Italian family, significantly as it relates to the character of Bruno who is forced to grow into manhood at a time in his life when he should be enjoying the carefree leverage that being a kid grants. The Bicycle Thief, though hurt in part by the inevitable decline age brings, is still a powerful piece of cinema, though probably shouldn’t be viewed by those wishing to end the film in the best of spirits.
I give The Bicycle Thief 3 books out of 5. Watch This Movie on Putlocker.