“Bicycle Thieves” (1948)

MOVIE REVIEW: “Bicycle Thieves” stars Lamberto Maggiorani (Mamma Roma, Attention! Bandits!), Enzo Staiola (The Barefoot Contessa, Times Gone By), and Lianella Carell (The Golds of Naples, Love and Trouble). It is directed by Vittorio De Sica (The Roof, Two Women), who also wrote it with Cesare Zavattini (Yesterday Today and Tomorrow, Miracle in Milan), Oreste Biancoli (Erik the Conquerer, Atlas Against the Cyclops), Suso Cecchi D’Amico (Roco and His Brothers, Senso), Adolfo Franci (Shoeshine, The Children Are Watching Us), Gherardo Gherardi (Odessa in fiamme, Adam’s Tree), and Gerardo Guerrieri (Superstitions, Tre sorelle). Set in a post-World War II Italy, a family man is graciously given a job of putting up posters throughout the city; the only catch is, he needs a bike to work. After earning enough money for the bike, the man begins his work to pull his family out of poverty. However, everything comes crashing down when his bike is stolen. Now, in order to keep his job, the man chases after the thief in hopes of getting back the only thing keeping his family fed.

his site has been rather light on foreign films, as I believe that I never reviewed a single one in my four-year tenure here. Finding a way to view movies made by other countries is difficult, more so than seeing a new release without going to the theater (which I don’t do). There’s hardly an outlet for me to watch them, but thankfully I was given an opportunity when “Bicycle Thieves” was assigned to me in my film history class. Italian Neorealism was a huge movement in Italy around the mid-40s to early 50s, being deemed as a “golden age” of its cinema. Movies stressing the genre would present a story that is realistic, typically shot in actual locations instead of backlots, and usually containing an ending with no resolution. “Bicycle Thieves” is the most prominent of the crop raised during that time, and for obvious reasons after watching it. What makes the feature stand out is how it still holds up to this day, as I can understand the conflict the main character is having without looking too deep into the story’s context. Set in post-World War II Rome, this plot is fleshed out in a bleak atmosphere. Almost everyone is just scraping by, scrambling to get a job so they can feed their families. Our hero, the main character, is like the rest of them; down to our level. Watching this was as if I was walking into someone’s life and seeing it play out for a little over an hour. Everything that happened could’ve happened in real life, and the writers didn’t try to expand their narrative to unrealistic means. When it comes to films like these, I generally give them solid ratings, however I hardly ever deem them fantastic. “Bicycle Thieves” contains all that you would find in an Oscar contender for a drama. The acting is marvelous, though I had to read their delivery in subtitles, the setting is interesting, and something sad has to happen. We all know the criteria that these releases hold, but this one in particular takes another step forward. How? It leaps out of the box. Sure, the story is as basic as a man trying to find his bike, with his son in tow, but there’s much more to that. This is a tale of what was thought to be a breakthrough ending up taking many wrong turns. Just when our hero gets close to fixing his problem, trouble arises and he falls further and further behind from reaching his goal. Some may find it saddening, others may see it as a “master strategy” just because it’s an old foreign movie. Although I find it to be a saddening venture, it is artistic and holds weight to the message this film is trying to exhibit. Not every story should be structured how WE want it. Otherwise, there’s not originality nor outlet for filmmakers to express themselves or a story they want. The people who made this wanted to tell a realistic tale; one that brought audience members closer to reality rather than giving them an escape. Many would hate this factor, especially the ending, however I respectfully enjoyed this release. The dialogue was engaging for a movie about hunting down a bike, and the character development, while subtle, worked wonders in fleshing out life during that time in Rome. It was as if I was watching a documentary of that decade with added narrative to keep things interesting. The pacing of this story was pretty consistent, with only a few parts being a little slow. Overall I thought this was a film that held up to its status. I had no idea what I was getting into, and I will say that there wasn’t a moment of predictability in this. The ending takes a shocking turn, and how you view it essentially defines whether you like the movie or not. As for me, I felt reserved. Though I was not all on board for how things wrapped, I commend the writers for doing something new (or utterly realistic). Watching this foreign flick gives me hope for others. There are many artists out there, especially when going back in time to the early workings of film, and they all have a story to share. This one in particular was simple, yet jarring, and I found myself taking enjoyment from it. If you are looking to reach outside the U.S. for fresh entertainment, I’d point you out to this (unless you are mainly into films Hollywood churns out nowadays). FINAL SCORE: 92%= Juicy Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

One response to ““Bicycle Thieves” (1948)

  1. Pingback: March Movie Rankings | Juicy Reviews·

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