Thursday, May 23, 2013
201. Ladri di biciclette/The Bicycle Thief (1948)
Running Time: 89 minutes
Directed By: Vittorio De Sica
Written By: Cesare Zavattini, Oreste Biancoli, Suso d'Amico, Vittorio De Sica, Adolfo Franci, Gerardo Guerrieri, from the novel Ladri di biciclette by Luigi Bartolini
Main Cast: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Gino Saltamerenda, Vittorio Antonucci
Click here to view the trailer
WHO KNEW A STOLEN BICYCLE COULD BE SO COMPELLING?
Technically this wasn't supposed to be the next movie I watched, but since I canceled my Netflix account today, I needed to watch this yesterday, via their streaming service, so as not to miss out on it. It's also worth noting that I only have six more movies from the 1940s left to watch and I'll have watched everything from the beginning of THE BOOK through to 1950!
Antonio Ricci (Maggiorani) is an unemployed man, living in postwar Rome, with his son Bruno (Staiola) and wife Maria (Carell). When the film opens, workers stand outside an unemployment office and wait to hear their names get called and Antonio's does. It seems that Antonio has the skills required to hang movie posters and at whopping wages that would allow him to feed his family and then some, he's ecstatic. There's only one hitch: he has to have a bicycle to do the job and because his family needed the money, he recently had to pawn his bicycle. He offers to do the job on foot, but the unemployment agent insists he have a bicycle or else he'll find someone else. Antonio takes the job, promising to be there the next morning, come hell or high water. When he gets home and tells Maria about it, she offers to hock the bed sheets so that they can get the bike out of the pawn shop and so that's what they do. The next morning, Antonio has a new lease on life and is more than ready to start his new job. However, he's just getting started when a teenage, hoodlum steals his bicycle. He tries to chase down the bike-napper, but to no avail and eventually he loses him in the hustle and bustle of the city. Now, he's back to square one and he's crushed. He vows to spend as much time as it takes trying to find the bike and so that's what he, his son and some friends do. The film takes place over the course of about thirty-six hours.
THE BOOK is quick to note that this is a fine example of Italian neorealism, but you know what? I really didn't know that when I was watching this movie. THE BOOK also notes that the intended themes were mostly lost on American audience, which would explain why "The Bicycle Thief" (or "Bicycle Thieves" which is the literal translation) won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film. I think that second fact holds very true for me personally, because as I said I didn't give two hoots about it being a neorealist film or that it was a communist film and instead formed my own ideas and themes throughout the picture. I formed many thoughts on this film and what it meant to me and in order to clarify them more clearly and accurately, I'll break it down paragraph by paragraph:
FREEDOM AND HAPPINESS
I found that the bicycle, for Antonio, represented freedom and happiness, as he'd be able, through the use of his bike, to provide for his family with this new job. Look, work is a drag, but the money we earn is what keeps our lives moving. It's how we're able to provide for our family and buy the things we want. I kind of wish they'd shown more of Antonio doing his job, before the bike was stolen, because we could've seen a man starting to reform his life, getting into a new work routine and viewed him, if only for a short time, as a happy person. I feel that a lengthier beginning would've only hammered home the impact of what having his bike stolen meant to Antonio and how everything he'd dreamed about for the past twenty-four hours, was now gone. Look at how happy Antonio is when he gets his bike back and even when he and his son are fixing it up the next morning. How happy he is when he's handed an omelet by his wife, tells her goodbye and heads out for his first day on his new job, his new life. It's something we can all relate to, because we all get up everyday and go to work and sure, most times we're not as gaga about it as Antonio was, but we realize it's a necessity and when you look at it from Antonio's point of view, it's something to be proud of - having a job.
To me, the thief represents a group of people that are always going to be there to ruin what you work so hard for. This world will always be full of assholes, who do what they want, when they want to do it, with no regard for anyone else. Had the thief known how much the bike meant to Antonio, would he have still taken it? Sure he would've, because what does a common street thief care about Antonio, as long as he can make a buck or two. The other thing I want to say about the thief, is how I really didn't know, toward the end, if that was the same man that stole Antonio's bike or not. Was I really not supposed to know or was it just me, who couldn't recollect what the thief looked like? See, I liked not being sure, because that kind of put us in Antonio's shoes, because really, he wasn't sure either.
How many of you urged, through your screens, for Antonio to steal the bike at the end? Once he did, how many of you hoped he'd get away with it? I did, on both points.
Did you ever ask someone an ethical question and they say something like, "Well I'd have to be put into that situation to provide an accurate answer?" That's kind of what "The Bicycle Thief" does to it's audience, at the end. It puts us in Antonio's shoes and if you root for him to steal the bike and root for him to pedal faster and elude the people who are trying to chase him, then maybe that's what you'd do in that situation. I mean, I hope I wouldn't stoop to stealing someone else's property, I don't think I would, but none of us know the feelings that were inside that character, how desperately he wanted that job and to be able to provide for his wife & son. Even when he tries to just forget about the bike and have lunch with his son, he can't help but be drawn back to thinking about all the money he'd have made and all the things he and his family would've been able to do. He gets sucked right back in and in his moment of despair, he thieves a bike of his own.
Anyway, screw the communism and the neorealism and just watch this movie for what it is. Don't try reading too far into it and trying to understand the intended themes, because it's not worth it and a fabulous movie is provided, without all that mumbo jumbo tied into it. Sure, it wasn't the best movie I've seen this season or anything, but it was very good and whether or not it'll make the TOP 20 (in a season with a multitude of contenders) will have to be seen, when the time comes. It's a movie that makes you think, feel and really makes you ache for it's characters.
RATING: 7.5/10 Now I'm kind of itching to see more De Sica movies, as I feel, just through this one picture, that he really knew how to speak to his audiences, while at the same time making movies that meant something to him.
MOVIES WATCHED: 687
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 314
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