Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ladri di biciclette (Vittorio De Sica, 1948) aka Bicycle Thieves

Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)
Rating: 10

(2nd viewing)

I'm a huge fan of Italian realism and of this pivotal film in the history of cinema. The story is very simple as it focuses on the plight of one man in need of his bicycle to work and provide for his family. Emotionally we connect and sympathize with the protagonist and the adorable relationship he has with his son Bruno, but just as importantly if not more so the film covers the broader social problems of the impoverished lower class. When Antonio and his wife sell their sheets to the pawn shop in order to buy back his bike which he had previously pawned off, we see a reveal of a man climbing a seemingly endless storage shelf full of identical bundles of sheets signifying that the Ricci family is merely an individual representation of many similar stories. Later in the film Antonio follows a poor old man into a church that is providing free meals and grooming to the poor. Initially we feel disdain towards the man because he is associated with the thief, but this scene arouses pathos. When the thief is finally confronted, we see the slums he is living in as the community comes to his aid for protection after Antonio accuses him of stealing. After Antonio becomes tries to steal a bike himself, we can begin to sympathize with the original thief or at least understand his desperation. The touching scene with the boy and his father eating an expensive lunch next to a rich family is also one of the finer moments of the film. I also admire De Sica's choice to end the film with such uncertainty.

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