In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.
Ricci, an unemployed man in the depressed post-WWII economy of Italy, gets at last a good job - for which he needs a bike - hanging up posters. But soon his bicycle is stolen. He and his son walk the streets of Rome, looking for the bicycle. Ricci finally manages to locate the thief but with no proof, he has to abandon his cause. But he and his son know perfectly well that without a bike, Ricci won't be able to keep his job. Written by
Vittorio De Sica's son Manuel recalled in an interview the filming of scenes in the Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele: "...Papa told me about coming across, early in the morning, the director of photography of the film Carlo Montuori, completely frozen, clinging to his camera, devotedly waiting for the fleeting moment. He had stayed there in order to protect with his whole body the chassis (the magazine of film mounted on the back of the camera) from the rigours of the night. Dawn has a brief duration, and for this reason several days were needed to sew together long sequences which had cost many early forced awakenings for the entire troupe just to get a few minutes of footage...During the filming in Piazza Vittorio, he required the production secretary, Roberto Moretti, to stop the trams passing. Poor Moretti, who did not even have a permit to set up the tripod of the camera on the square, with great presence of mind disguised himself as a tram conductor, and began to redirect all the trams bursting with workers that happened to pass in proximity to the square. Before anyone guessed the reason for the existence of this man in the middle of the crossroads, the shooting was finished and Roberto arrested." See more »
There's not much that can be said about "The Bicycle Thief" that hasn't already been expressed. It is considered a great work of the Italian cinema, and looking at it in its 1999 release version, one can see why.
Structurally, it's a theme and variations, with such a simple, clearly stated main motif that one can identify and follow its mutations with no effort. DeSica is clearly the fine craftsman here, directing every scene with a beautiful sense of control and balance.
His work with young Enzo Staiola (as Bruno) is especially commendable, and he allows then nonprofessionals Lamberto Maggiorani (as Antonio) and Lianella Carell (as Marie) to act in a model of naturalism.
Carlo Montuori's photography is brilliant, and Antonio Traverso's production design is pungent and atmospheric. Like most "masterpieces," a film-classic score provides emotional depth in a subliminal way: here it's a romantic, Italianesque original composition by Aessandro Cicognini wraps up the entire production.
DeSica's career is most impressive, being involved in nealy 200 films, 165 of them as an actor. This film remains one of his greatest achievements. It seems to be standing the test of time very nicely, too. It's been criticized, sometimes quite severely, and just continues to bounce back, winning new admirers with each reissue. The public just won't let "The Bicycle Thief" fade away. That alone tends to override any negative factors. It looks like this film is going to be around for quite a while. ###
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