A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
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 »
It is post-war Rome and much of the city's residents are impoverished and desperate for work. One man named Ricci who haunts the job lines day after day to provide for his wife and two children, when suddenly his name is called for a well-paying city job. The only catch is that he needs a bicycle for the job, and he has just pawned his bicycle in order to feed his family. Thus begins `The Bicycle Thief', Vittorio de Sica's gritty study in realism. Ricci and his wife sell the sheets off of their beds to get the bicycle back, only to have the bicycle stolen on his first day on the job. In order to keep the job, he and his young son walk around Rome, desperate to find the thief, and more importantly, the bicycle before his next day of work.
de Sica chose non-actors to portray the characters in the film, favoring a further realistic vision by casting amateurs. The result is remarkable, because the pain and emotions conveyed are so true. The relationship between father and son is also compelling and endearing, in that for the most part, Ricci treats his son as an equal, letting him in on his innermost thoughts and fears, until the end, when a particular event causes him to be ashamed, and the roles become defined once again.
`The Bicycle Thief' personifies the refreshing fact that European cinema was more daring and also true in their reaction to post-war life. While America was trying to paint a heavy coat of rosy paint on the times by churning out the saccharine MGM musicals by the dozen, Europe was showing that the effects of a war fought on their home turf did not inspire moments of spontaneously breaking into song, or a choreographed dance number, rather life pretty much sucked, but survival, as difficult and ugly as it can be, is most important. `The Bicycle Thief' has been a critical favorite for decades, and for good reason. It is a must-see film for any cinephile.
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