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Ladri di Biciclette

Bicycle Thieves
The Bicycle Thief

Italy 1948
produced by
Giuseppe Amato, Vittorio De Sica for Produzioni De Sica
directed by Vittorio De Sica
starring Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Gino Saltamerenda, Vittorio Antonucci, Giulio Chiari, Elena Altieri, Carlo Jachino, Michele Sakara, Emma Druetti, Fausto Guerzoni, Giulio Battiferri, Ida Bracci Dorati, Mario Meniconi, Sergio Leone, Checco Rissone, Peppino Spadaro, Massimo Randisi
screenplay by Cesare Zavattini, Suso Cecchi D'Amico, Vittorio De Sica, Oreste Biancoli, Adolfo Franci, Gerardo Guerrieri, based on the novel by Luigi Bartolini, music by Alessandro Cicognini

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Life in post-war Italy is nothing but a hardship for Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani), as he has a family of four to feed but no job - and when he finally gets a job posting advertising bills, he almost cannot accept since a bicycle is vital for the job, and his is with the pawnbroker. His wife (Lianella Carell) is more practical than him though and just pawns out his bedsheets to get him his bike ... and the job. But then, on the first day, the bicycle is stolen, and with it gone, Antonio sees his life in shambles.

The next day though, his best friend garbage man/actor Baiocco (Gino Saltamerenda) takes him and his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) to a few bicycle black markets, where they might not succeed in finding the bicycle, but it gives Antonio hope to continue his search together with Bruno. They soon comb approximately half the city, and the longer it goes on, the more it becomes an existential search for Antonio, so much so that he at times forgets to look after Bruno - who matches pretty well on his own, but he's still a kid of no more than eight years. Also, with the lack of success of their quest, Antonio seems to sink lower and lower, as he at one point attacks a beggar (whom he believes to know the thief) during a mass, at another he visits a clairvoyant he has warned his wife of just the other day, and then he reports someone he believes to be the thief to the police without proof, and without seeing the poverty that guy lives in. And in the end, after sending his son home, Antonio tries to steal a bicycle himself - and is only saved from an angry mob by his son, who hasn't listened to him, and a bicycle owner who shows more sympathy to Antonio than he ever could ...

 

One of the most successful films of Italian neorealist cinema, Bicycle Thieves could with many never quite shake the reputation of being over-sentimental (as which it was ciritcized even upon release) while others only see its humanist values in it, neglecting its cinematic qualities. What Bicycle Thieves actually is is a rather un-sentimental film that weaves its symbolism into its story rather seamlessly, blends its sucial drama into an entertaining sort-of genre story with ease, and finds the right balance between a realist portrayal of the working class's hardships in post-war italy and cinematic poetry.

A rather wonderful movie, actually, and of course highly recommended - not only by me mind you ...

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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