Bicycle Thieves (1948) Poster

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No small thing.
Gerald A. DeLuca11 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This movie changed my life. It changed it in the sense that after seeing it I developed a life-long passion for Italian films after first seeing it in 1955 when it appeared at a local movie theatre in a revival five years or so after its original appearance. I was only 13 at the time and somewhat of a precocious chooser of what films to go see. I have seen THE BICYCLE THIEF ("Bicycle Thieves" in England and plural as well in its original Italian title) hundreds of times since and never tire of it. The fact that the film has almost never been out of circulation since its making and is constantly shown in revivals, festivals and film classes attests to its endurance. Martin Scorsese does a glorious appreciation of it in his documentary on the Italian cinema, IL MIO VIAGGIO IN ITALIA.

What makes it so enduring? What is so damn great about the movie? It is not its trenchant portrayal of post-war Italian poverty and misery. Lots of films did that even better. It is not in any sense of real drama, which is very schematic. Nor even the unforgettably truthful acting, that iconic face of pint-sized Enzo Staiola. We get truthful acting and iconic faces all over the place. It is, I believe, its sense of compassion, its sense of poetry. Those are rarer qualities. The movie is compassionate poetry. I don't know if writer Cesare Zavattini or director Vittorio De Sica would have appreciated that phrase. I feel they might have. I feel it is exactly the truth they were after. To be sure, the film is a story of father and little-boy in search of what is lost, a necessity yes, but also a lost dream. The endangered hope for a better life to come challenges this paternal/filial relationship. In that sense, this is a film-poem, God help me, about Everyfather and Everylittleboy.

The most chilling moment in the poem occurs when little Bruno sees his father steal, and a tearful horror glazes his face as a god seems to collapse. The most redemptive moment comes shortly thereafter when the boy slips his hand into his father's. That forgiveness is not cheap or facile. It is unassailable and all-comforting. It is a forgiving embrace of Virgilian dignity. For a magnificent instant the father, Antonio, has become the son; Bruno, the son, has become the father. At the end, when they walk off into the Roman crowd, they are as one.

I have written many thoughts about this film over the years, including an extended exegesis for a local newspaper. I have programmed it in film series, shown it to film classes, Italian classes. I know the movie. Friends, the movie is not about stolen bicycles, indifferent police, bicycle chop-shop gargoyles, mouth-foaming lowlife, desperate actions by the desperate, or mere journalistic human interest that is gone with tomorrow's edition. Its worth resides in its lyric portrayal of the eternal curative power of love. No small thing.

Two addenda: the song being rehearsed at the workers' club Antonio visits to see his friend is called "Ciccio Formaggio." The song being sung and played by the restaurant musicians when Antonio and his son eat together is "Tummuriata nera," about the mulatto offspring of an Italian woman and a black soldier. The lyrics for both songs, in Neapolitan dialect, can be found by Googling the titles. Recordings by Roberto Murolo of both songs are available.
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Quiet Desperation---Italian Style.
tfrizzell2 May 2003
In post-World War II Italy poverty is a dire reality for a large portion of the population. Work is scarce and the opportunities for employment are few and far between. "Ladri Di Biciclette" (translated "The Bicycle Thief") is quietly one of the finest films ever produced. It follows one economically distraught man (Lamberto Maggiorani) who is heading down a desperate path fast. Things look up when he gets a job putting posters on walls in town, but he must sell what few meager possessions he and his family have to buy a bicycle to uphold his end of the business bargain. Naturally tragedy strikes immediately as the title character shows up the very first day Maggiorani is on the job. The police are little help, believing the bicycle is not as important as it really is. Thus Maggiorani and young son Enzo Staiola take it upon themselves to look all over town to try and find the bicycle and bring the thief to justice. "The Bicycle Thief" was originally released in 1948 and won an Honorary Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film the following year (the movie was not released in the U.S. until 1949). It is still a production that strikes deep even today. The lengths and desperate measures that some go through is very evident here. Director Vittorio De Sica crafts a film that is much deeper than it appears on the surface. It examines the human condition and questions society, family, law enforcement, alliances and mental anguish perfectly. "The Bicycle Thief" is an excellent production that has aged well and allows the viewer to think about many subjects that go beyond ordinary cinematic depths. 5 stars out of 5.
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Heartfelt Drama of Post WWII Poverty a Must-See...
Donald J. Lamb16 April 1999
The Italian neo-realist film movement began around the end of WWII with Roberto Rossellini's OPEN CITY in 1946. It is defined and encapsulated by this striking film directed by Vittorio De Sica. THE BICYCLE THIEF is the best of a group of films that depicted the hardship and despair that Europeans, specifically Italians, went through after the death and destruction of the war. The economy was horrible, and the towns and cities were half-destroyed and decaying. Rome is the location for THE BICYCLE THIEF and De Sica shoots the city in grainy black and white with non-professional actors to get a simple, yet unbearingly emotional point across. A simple thing such as a bike can be someone's entire world at that time and losing it means doing something irrational or perhaps necessary.

The lead in the film is played by Lamberto Maggiorani who seems to be a very good actor. He is not an actor, however, and maybe this is why the film hits its mark so well and comes across so realistically. Maggiorani is of this difficult world and his brooding face is a clear indication of this. His job is to plaster film posters up on the walls of buildings all over Rome. He even hangs a picture that symbolizes the absolute opposite of the misery surrounding him. Rita Hayworth from GILDA is on the walls all over the city, a sign of joy to some, a representation of their own lowly status to others.

When the bicycle is actually stolen, the "title" character is sought after by Maggiorani and his young son (Enzo Staiola), a little kid with so much acting ability, you swear this must be a documentary. A grueling search throughout Rome has the essential parts of the movie, because we see up close the actual people and places the neo-realist film movement came to represent. It is a small, sad world they live in and the bike has to be found so that they can live. The father is put to the ultimate test in front of his son. Will he do the honorable thing or will he do what his mind and heart know is only possible? These are the tense moments of the film's climax.

There is a lot of THE BICYCLE THIEF in Benigni's LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and some obvious comparisons have been drawn because of the father-son relationship. They are worthy of comparison and have equal artistic prowess. What is different about THIEF is the level of intensity maintained throughout. I felt the key element was the music by Alessandro Cicognini, a simple horn that plays so tragically that it is a main character in the picture. What De Sica does here, as well as other neo-realist directors (Rossellini, Fellini), is create for American audiences a powerful counterpoint to what we are used to. An honest, non-corporate portrait of the struggle for life and self-respect. THE BICYCLE THIEF is one of the finest films ever made.

RATING: 10 of 10
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Powerful and dramatic
FilmOtaku1 August 2004
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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Another one to add to my top 50- a delicate study of desperation in post war Italy
MisterWhiplash8 April 2003
Vittorio De Sica's ground/heartbreaking motion picture, The Bicycle Thief, is based on a very simple ideal for a story- man against the elements. In this case the elements are of a society that is often cruel and unforgiving, and that a job in post-war Rome is looked on as the luckiest of good luck charms.

Such a man as presented by De Sica is Maggiorani (an actor who really is the type of actor right off the street), a father of a little boy who gets a job putting up movie posters along some walls in Rome. To do this he needs a bicycle, or the job will be lost, and he gets one following a pawning of linen sheets. Very soon though, the bicycle is stolen, and from there a sad downward spiral unravels for the man and his son as they scour the streets for the bicycle.

While the score adds basic dramatic tension, everything else on the screen is done to such a pitch of neo-realism it's at times shattering, joyful (scene in the pizzeria the most note-worthy), and with a feeling of day-to-day resonance to those who may have not even felt at or below the poverty level in their lives. Credit due to all parties involved, though I don't think the boy Bruno, played by Staiola, gets nearly enough considering his role as a minor coming of age (that moment after the father and son leave the church nearly brought tears to my eyes). A++
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ametaphysicalshark4 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Even if you are merely a moderate fan of cinema you will have at least heard of this film. It has been hailed as a masterpiece for just short of sixty years and has been routinely studied in film classes everywhere. In a sense, it is one of the recognized masterpieces of cinema. And yet, this is not a film in which to pick up obviously great shots like the 360 degree shot in the hotel room in "Vertigo" or cuts as good as the jump cut in "2001: A Space Odyssey" with which Kubrick transports you from prehistoric ages to an age in which space travel is common in barely a second. This is a subtle, realistic film, and though it looks terrific, it is not flashy. It exists not to excel technically or tell the story of humanity, but simply to tell a story. A simple story which may say more about human nature than any other film in existence.

"Bicycle Thieves" is about a man in economically depressed post-World War II Italy who is lucky enough to find a job which requires him to use a bicycle as transportation while putting up posters around the city. It's relatively well-paying and almost too good to believe for his family. While on the job his bicycle is stolen, and the rest of the movie tells the story of him and his son attempting to recover the bicycle.

In the magnificent final scene Antonio Ricci (the lead character) finds himself tempted to steal a bicycle in order to be able to perform his job. Here we have our 'hero' thinking about doing to someone else what was done to him. There is no black and white in the world, no good and evil. This film does a great job of stating that fact without moralizing and preaching like so many modern films do. This film does not insult your intelligence and I pity those who wanted a third act, or those who wanted more explanation. This film is beautiful and brilliant because it is completely understated. It's realistic. We feel Ricci's desperation and are transported into 1940's Rome as he makes his way through the city's crowded streets, alleyways, churches and brothels.

I have no idea how much this film cost to make, but I would be surprised if it was made on a low budget. The location shooting throughout the city is impressive, as is the (again) understated cinematography. De Sica cast non-actors in the lead roles, and I find their performances to be among the most realistic and effective I've ever seen. Alessandro Cigognini's score is a highlight of the film, and I consider the melancholy main theme one of the greatest musical cues I've heard in any film.

I enjoy theatricality as much as anyone and I certainly don't dislike Hollywood gloss, but "Bicycle Thieves" serves as a jarring reminder of how great a medium film can be. The jarring effect the film had on audiences upon its release (in particular American audiences) is easy to understand viewing the film in 2007 and it escapes my comprehension how anyone can't be completely captivated and enthralled by this masterwork.

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ACitizenCalledKane1 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Some films try to explain multiple aspects of a story or a character by showing several episodes from the character's life. Vittorio De Sica's masterful The Bicycle Thief relies on the power of simplicity to drive home its point. It is a very simple film, relying on film making at its basics. There are no professional actors for us to identify with, but there are plot lines, emotions, and thoughts that no one can help but relate to. Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) has been waiting for a job, but when one finally arrives, he must obtain a bicycle in order to be able to accept the position. His loving and caring wife, Maria (Lianella Carell), hocks the bed sheets in order to be able to afford a bicycle for Antonio. He reports to work as a poster hanger, but while on the job for only a short time, the bike is stolen by a young thief (Vittorio Antonucci). Desperate to get the vehicle back, Antonio seeks the aid of his friend, Baiocco (Gino Saltamerenda), and also receives the help of his devoted son, Bruno (Enzo Staiola). Bruno stays by Antonio's side, no matter what, determined to help his father get back the stolen property. It is a frustrating journey for the father and son, as they receive no help, except that of Baiocco. It seems that no matter what they do, Antonio is left with a fateful decision (shown in one of the most brutally honest scenes in any movie I've ever seen). He must ask himself just how far would he go to put food on the table for his family that he loves so much? There has been controversy over the ending of the film, which I am not going to go into, because it would be cheating you out of a brilliant ending to an extraordinary picture. However, I will say this much - When viewing The Bicycle Thief, ask yourself what you would do in Antonio's situation. What choices would you make? Some of the questions that rise from this film are some of the questions that help us to define ourselves as people, and the fact that this film provides such a clear and honest representation of so many facts of life is what makes it an undeniable masterpiece! This is a film to be cherished!
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The greatest neorealism film ever made
PureCinema30 January 1999
The Bicycle Thief is without a doubt De Sica's masterpiece of Italian neorealism filmmaking. It is a true landmark in cinema history.

A man who has been unemployed for months is finally given a chance at a job putting up posters. He and his family have been living in poverty for months, and are very exited to hear the news. The only requirement for the job is a bicycle. His wife pawns the sheets off of their own bed in order to buy the bicycle. And, as you can tell from the title, it is stolen on his first day of work. Now, without it, he and his son search the crowded streets of Rome for the only thing that can give him back his dignity as a man.

This is a simple, but very powerful film and I found the relationship between Bruno and his father especially touching. The final scene is a true captivating moment as Bruno witnesses the true nature of man and the world we have created for ourselves.

Don't miss this film, to call it a classic would be an understatement.
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Simple, Powerful Film Survives
harry-7618 April 2000
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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Lord of the Rings fanatics should all watch this movie
Vladimir14 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Lord of the Rings and I respect people's right to obsess over whatever they wish. Nonetheless, it does often irritate the cynic in me that we're teaching a generation of kids that there is a distinct borderline between 'good' and 'evil', between 'justice' and 'injustice', that there exists such a thing as a 'hero', when in reality there is actually nothing of the sort.

Ladri di Biciclette is a shining example of a film that demonstrates this fact. There is no distinction between the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys'. At times we support one character, or the others. But there is never a line drawn between one side or the other because in reality, the only people we see here are simply human - flawed, corruptible and in this case, all suffering the same tragic fate. Our central character Antonio is obviously the protagonist, and he is obviously portrayed in such a way that our sympathies lie with him, but he is far from being a hero. He is simply used as the representation of the tragic misfortune that can befall mankind. This misfortune, also, is not depicted in any black-and-white sense. Antonio and his family's plight is not the only, or even necessarily the most desperate, in this film. In fact, with the exception of the family in the restaurant scene, practically every single character, major or minor, is portrayed as suffering in some way at the hands of capitalism.

Therefore, as obviously tragic as Antonio's story is, the only real reason we side with him is because his particular tragedy is centrally focused. But, as has been discussed so often previously, he is an Everyman character. The bicycle in the film is simply used as an analogy for the loss, or lack of any essential element of life that leads to poverty and suffering. In very simple terms, the film's message is essentially that at some stage in life, we are all shouting "Give me back my bicycle!"

But I digress. This simplistic and amateurish film is far more real and far more true-to-life than practically anything that Hollywood has churned out in the past fifty years. For that reason, the realist in me believes that all those dreamers, people who believe in a happy ending or ideal status quo, could do with the sort of down-to-earth lesson that this film represents.

Yes, it's a distressing and bleak vision. But nevertheless, an utterly profound one.
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A revolutionary film
caspian19788 September 2001
Warning: Spoilers
A film of real life, real emotions, real people. Bicycle Thieves was a film like no other because it was made like no other. With non actors, natural light, filmed on locations, the film captured the truth of Neorealism. The film is made up of a series of "small moments." The fact is, the entire movie is made up of pureness. It tackles issues of class, politics, and post war activities. Overall, the film is about life and hope. The unhappy ending only makes the film more real. If you are a son who loved his father and understood who he was and why he was the way he this movie.
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The true point of the film
Foo King14 December 2000 the relationship of the father and son.

Watch the film with your focus on the son, not the father. Watch what happens to the boy, what he sees, how he is influenced, his point of view. The father is so preoccupied with the bicycle he fails to see what is happening to his son. This is the strength of the film. Watch the boy.
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A Potpourri of Vestiges Review: The path to eternal salvation becomes obvious only through true understanding of human emotions
Murtaza Ali9 April 2011
Semantically speaking, self-realization is a probable prelude to catharsis, but at a much higher echelon of cognition the two become virtually inseparable as attaining the former would automatically yield the latter. At this threshold of enlightenment, human spirit attains a sense of ephemeral divinity that would either drive the human crazy or would lead him to salvation. This enlightenment can seldom be attained through vicarious means. Even cinema, with its unparalleled potential to stimulate and satiate, mostly falls short of being cathartic, and only in the rarest of the rare cases does it manage to accomplish the incredible and the extraordinary. Undoubtedly, Bicycle Thieves is one such rare moment of triumph, wherein cinema becomes not only the tool but also the medium for the viewer to attain eternal salvation.

Bicycle Thieves is an Italian neo-realist film by Vittorio De Sica. Neo- realism, a naturalistic movement in Italian cinema of the 1940s, aimed at giving cinema a new degree of realism, which promoted the use of an amateur cast vis-à-vis a professionally trained one and advocated shooting at real locations instead of the custom-built sets & studios. Keeping up with the spirit of the movement, Vittorio De Sica chose a factory fitter who had brought his son along for an audition as his male lead. His lead actress was a journalist who had approached him for an interview, while the young boy was filled by a child spotted in the crowd watching the filming.

Bicycle Thieves tells the story of a poor worker searching the streets of Rome for his stolen bicycle, which he needs to keep his job intact. The movie is an amalgam of contrasting human feelings of hope & despair, sacrifice & gratification, euphoria & melancholy, love & detestation, and malice & benevolence. Bicycle Thieves performs the central function of art, which is to discover the meaning of life. The movie brilliantly handles with utmost care and precision the tender and often painful relationship that universally exists between a father and a son. The later half of the movie presents cinema at its most vivid, vituperative and volatile culminating in one of the most impactful, melancholic and brutally humanistic finales ever filmed in cinematic history, the agony of which would keep the viewer contemplating for weeks, months, or even years.

The screenplay is simplistic, thought-provoking and at times nakedly brutal, while the cinematography is so effortless and magnificently beautiful that it appears as though a soul of a man has been filmed, and its true essence has been captured and preserved. The poignancy of the background score casts such a sustained spell that the movie experience is enhanced beyond imagination. American playwright Arthur Miller called it a lyrical masterpiece as it examines openly the destructive and draconian world man has made for himself. Marlon Brando once said, "Bicycle Thieves is the perfect example of what can be done in front of the motion picture camera and is so rarely done". Academy winner, Henry Fonda was so moved by the movie that he was tempted to write Vittorio De Sica a fan letter. The film is frequently on critics' and directors' lists of the best films ever made. It has captured every honor that the world of film can bestow including an Academy Honorary Award in 1950.

All these accolades and the ubiquitous acclaim cannot describe the actual experience of seeing this film and becoming a part of its emotional impact. It makes the viewer laugh, cry and experience a rainbow of emotions. Bicycle Thieves has withstood the test of time for over six decades, and is a film for anyone and everyone.

PS. It is a cinematic magnum opus, which accentuates the true might of cinema, and is a must for everyone, irrespective of cast, color, creed or gender. It's an ageless cinema for people of all age groups. 10/10
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A Heartbreaking Masterpiece of the Italian Neo-Realism
Claudio Carvalho23 March 2010
In the post-war Rome, after more than two-year unemployment, the family man Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) finally finds a disputed job position putting up posters that requires having a bicycle. However, he needs to retrieve his bicycle in the pawn shop but he does not have money. His wife Maria (Lianella Carell) pawns their bed sheets and uses the money to recover the precious bicycle. Antonio envisions a better life for his family with his salary, overtime and benefits. Unfortunately, his bicycle is stolen on the first working day. Antonio and his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) spend the Sunday chasing the bicycle and the thief on the streets of Rome.

"Ladri di Biciclette" is a heartbreaking masterpiece of the Italian Neo- Realism and one of the best movies of cinema history ever. This is the third time that I watch this unforgettable film that makes me sad with the desperation of Antonio and his lack of perspective in the end. There are memorable touching scenes, like Bruno eating pizza in the restaurant wearing a torn coat and contrasting with the wealthy family; or the happiness of the clumsy Antonio putting up the poster of Rita Hayworth in "Gilda"; or the indecision of Bruno between a dish of soup in the church or chasing the old man with his father; or the shame of Antonio in the end. The DVD released in Brazil by Spectra Nova has good quality of image, subtitles in yellow but no Extras. The DVD released by Versátil uses the same matrix of Spectra Nova but with subtitles in white, and it is difficult the reading by the viewer. However, there are many Extras. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Ladrões de Bicicleta" ("Thieves of Bicycle")
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An incredible lesson of life, in a period when everything seemed useless!
mrbadguy-126 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
When I first saw "Ladri di Biciclette" I was still infatuated with the idea that all the known movie masterpieces must be regarded as untouchable ideals, that the film is definitely "good" ->end of story! But while I was watching the movie("Ladri di Biciclette") the true sensibility of the characters and of the shooting technique astonished me! The plot is simple but touching, the actors react naturally. Although the times they are living are awful, Antonio and Bruno lift themselves over the daily cares (they do have strong characters) and the father and son relationship is more than believable!!! I've never seen actors understanding each other better, and I don't mean it on a stage level! The looks on their faces when they should cry, but they don't, the famous take when father and son are standing on the sidewalk one thinking about the other, and what is left to be done! But what is most touching is the scene from the end, when Bruno's look actually saves his father from prison. The man who's bike was stolen shows that some people are human even in the darkest of times.

This is movie to be seen, a movie that will make you wonder about the boundaries of humanity, the power of a character and even dare you to think of the mistakes that society makes you commit in order to survive!!!
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Poignant film
Ritella8 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Possible Spoilers One of the simplest movies ever made, yet one of the most poignant. Of particular note is the title of the film, which serves, in retrospect, to illustrate deSicca's main point. In English, the singular title "The Bicylce Thief" causes the viewer to question who really is the bicycle thief in the movie? It is logical to conclude that the title refers to the main character, whom the film closely chronicles. But to call the hopeless, dejected character, with whom the viewer has empathized for the entire movie, a thief would be ludicrous, unless- by calling such a man a "thief"- deSicca is making a more powerful commentary on an inability to define a person or his actions as absolutely good or absolutely evil- the two terms are not mutually exclusive, as there is a blurring between the two that occurs when other factors are considered. The title serves as a reminder that not all criminals are evil- some have been motivated out of good intentions and desperation. In the end, the viewer is forced to make a jarring comparison between the "thief" who stole the main char's bicycle and the main char, himself. The irony of the situation causes the viewer to realize his own hypocrisy. Though we formerly considered the first thief to be petty and evil for ruining the main char's life, we can no longer hold such a judgment of him after witnessing the main char do the same- an act which the viewer considers sympathetically. The change in judgment toward the first "thief" which the viewer is forced to make at the film's conclusion is a reminder to the viewer that one's awareness of the circumstances governing a situation can dramatically change one's assessment of the situation. The Italian, plural title "Ladri di Biciclette" serves to generalize the crime, desperation, degradation, to everyman in post-war Italy. I also loved this movie for the portrayed father-son relationship. The little boy did an excellent job in portraying a boy who attempts to act like a grown up in order to help, and therefore gain the approval of, his father.

However, by the end of the movie we are reminded that the boy is just a boy (which the father seems to forget at intervals, but realizes when he offers to take him for pizza, etc.). The father also has a dilemma- and not just that he bears the burden of providing for his family monetarily, but that he must provide moral teaching and an example as well. Moreover, the filial relationship serves to better illustrate the theme of blurred definitions of good and evil. The boy's black-and-white ideas on good and evil is juxtaposed with the reality of post-war Italy, in which there can not be such a clear distinction between the two terms-"good" people are forced to do "bad" acts in order to survive. The two different moral characterizations are forced to converge in the young boy, himself, when he witnesses his own father commit a crime. The boy is forced to grow up too soon- i.e., to abandon his absolute views on good and evil in favor of the grey reality in order to grant his father forgiveness. The ending of the film illustrates that though a child may constantly seek approval and confirmation from his father, the approval which a father must seek from his son, though far more subtle and less obvious, plays an equally important and intrinsic role in filial relationships.
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Exceptional film which should be honored and treasured
Agent109 May 2002
Italian Neorealism has always been one of my favorite film movements, and The Bicycle Thief appears to be one the finest examples of this medium. While people today might not understand the power in the story, one has to understand the nature state of Italy after World War II. The country was in ruins, and finding a good job was difficult. Desperation took over more often than reason, and this leads to the eventual climax of self pity and remorse. Quite a powerful film, for it is the only foreign film I have on my personal Top 25 list.
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Worth a 5 out of 10 to view life in post war Rome
Grjas5 August 2015
It's interesting to see the street scenes, the apartments, the roadways and the buses in postwar Rome. Those scenes alone make the movie worth watching.

But that's about it.

The plot is minimalistic, the acting is passable, the pace is very slow, and the soundtrack is poor. There is some suspense initially in the movie, but when you realize that nothing really happens, the suspense rapidly falls away, while the drudgery continues.

I have certainly seen worse movies than this over the years- it's not bad, just boring, very slow moving and somewhat pointless- but seeing reviewers claim it's one of the best of all time is beyond bizarre.

I'm beginning to conclude that if a movie is dark, depressing, and soulless, it will resonate well with the so called "learned reviewers". Personally, I'd prefer some content.
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A good man who has been failed by everything around him.
hughman5516 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I wish I was a brilliant film critic so that I could write something monumental to this monumental film. It is absolutely one of the best films ever made. Perhaps the best film ever made. Thank God for TCM and Robert Osbourn. Together they have brought obscure masterpieces right into our living rooms so that we can discover the global genius that is film making around the world.

The Bicycle Thief is about desperation in post WWII Italy. After a man wins the job lottery putting up posters of Rita Hayworth around Rome, on his first day at work his only essential tool of trade, his bicycle, is stolen. What ensues to the end of the movie is a desperate, tension filled, search for the thief who stole it, and ultimately the recovery of his bicycle. He is accompanied on his search by his 7 year old son. The two actors who play these roles are not professional actors and yet they turn in performances of the century.

The plot points, direction, writing, and cinematography, of this masterpiece are without equal. The portrayal of the misery and desperation of those who survived WWII leaves a pit in your stomach. Most profound is the relationship between the father and son and their journey together to find his stolen bicycle so that he can make money and feed his family again.

This is a movie without a climax. And that's a big part of what makes it great. The ending is something you could never imagine, and will never forget once you've experienced it. I will only say one more thing about it's conclusion. There are some things more heartbreaking than the tragic loss of life. In this movie, that "something more heartbreaking than the tragic loss of life", is the tragedy of continuing to live after you've lost everything. This is the saddest film I have ever seen and that includes Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows. But it is a magnificent film and should be seen by everyone. It has left a mark on me that will never go away. And in every respect, it very well could be one of the greatest film ever made.
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A film that won't be easily forgotten
bts198412 January 2012
This is one of the best films made in Italy. While not "the best movie ever", it is one of the all-time greats.

'Ladri di biciclette' is more than just a movie, it's a way of life and what it contains is forever significant. I'm taking about its solid, tragic and realistic story. Yes, it's a fairly basic plot which could never be described as "exciting" or "feel-good" but that isn't (and it never was) a priority. No, its priority is the heart and soul that was put into it.

What we got here is a strongly sentimental movie and one that is very pessimistic and brings back the intense feeling of bad luck and failure.

Cinematography is generally pleasant, capturing a decent amount of Rome's streets and areas. To me, the scenario is one of the most important things in a movie.

Amazingly, the cast consists in unprofessional actors but you can never tell that in the movie. If I didn't know, I could easily think they were real actors. They are so authentic and dedicated that it's fairly natural to see them as normal/professional artists.

Lamberto Maggiorani's performance as Antonio Ricci is superb, a prodigy non-professional actor.

Enzo Staiola is just as splendid as Ricci's cute son Bruno. He is so expressive and genuine. The character Bruno is a loving kid who follows his "daddy" wherever he goes and does whatever "daddy" says without saying a word but that doesn't prevent him from looking tenderly at his father.

The guy in the film is literally out of luck. After having been (predictably) unemployed for a long time, he finally gets himself a job only to have his bicycle robbed in his new job's 1st day. When his bike is robbed, nobody helps him or gives a damn about him aside a friend of his and Bruno. But when he is the one robbing a bike, he is not only chased but caught, slapped, threatened and humiliated in public by an angry crowd. His one and only saving-grace in this situation is the fact that the bike's owner feels compassion on poor Bruno when he sobs.

That ending is easily one of the most memorable in a film ever, it's just so heartwrenching and profound.

Title in Portugal: 'Ladrões de Bicicletas'.
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Life Is Not Beautiful
Marino Saveri23 February 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Before Life was Beautiful, life was bleak and depressing, as depicted in de Sica's classic example of Italian Neorealism. Ricci finally finds a job after the war that requires a bicycle, but when his is stolen, he searches Rome for the one thing that he thinks can give his family happiness. Stark and gritty, the film comes off almost as a documentary, with unprofessional actors showing true skill as you come to really feel and hope for the characters. de Sica's does a fantastic job in both depicting the visual beauty of Italy, as well as establishing anticipation and excitement through quick cuts, especially in the climax. Although mostly unscripted, the film's story makes this a must see as a father and a son bond while searching for hope. Punctuated by the Hollywood taboo of an unhappy ending, Ricci must become the thing that he hates most in order to help his family, and show what kind of an example he is for his son.
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Touching but Overpraised
kenjha28 September 2010
A poor man relies on his bicycle to do his job, but it is stolen, leading to much angst. This landmark film of the Italian neo-realism movement has some fine moments and is ultimately touching. However, its historical significance should not be confused with its artistic merit. The simple plot is drawn out too much, and for a film made in 1948, it looks rather primitive, as if it were made two decades earlier. The acting by a cast of first-time actors is nothing more than average, although the little boy is adorable. Maggiorani looks like a cross between Humphrey Bogart and Clint Eastwood! It's a decent film, but falls far short of its reputation as one of the all-time greats.
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Marxism Or Nihilism?
bigverybadtom11 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
In Rome, Italy in 1948, the economy is depressed and jobs are very few. A former bricklayer manages to get a job putting up posters, but he needs his bicycle back from a pawn shop, and trades in his bedding for it. On the first day of his job, a young man finds his bicycle and steals it. The man, who has a wife, son, and baby, desperately searches for it.

The man goes to the police, but can do no more than file a complaint, and they won't waste valuable time looking for a stolen bicycle. His young son helps him, along with some dopey friends of his, but no luck. They go to a church, to a clairvoyant, and get no results. Even finding the thief fails-they cannot prove he did it. The movie ends with the man broken by his sufferings.

The movie is said to be Marxist, but it is difficult to understand why. The implied message is that the law, elected politicians, the church, even a group of political agitators, give this poor man no relief. The movie tells what doesn't help the protagonist, but does not say what would. The movie may attack religion, democracy, and capitalism, but that is all it does. A relic rather than a classic.
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tedg20 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

This is a film about child, one who is both IN the film and watches it.

Hard as it is to imagine today, the world of film once had ideas on the surface, and lively controversies. Men took risks and sometimes survived to be celebrated.

Here is a case: an experiment in urban photography, naturalistic acting (rather, naturalism) and investment in a narrative based on unromantic caprice. It is on many `best of' lists. But as with many projects (`On Golden Pond' comes to mind) the IDEA of the film is far superior to the film itself. This film is mawkishly sentimental while advertising that it isn't. It is crisply crafted while claiming otherwise. It is highly stylized - especially the confrontations - where it claims verity.

The ideas explored have long ago been replaced by others more vital. As a result, the more you see this the more tired it seems. Except. Except for a couple shots of the kid, like when he is interrupted when peeing.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 4: Has some interesting elements.
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A very touching piece of cinema which is still relevant today due to people living in ghettos.
Fella_shibby4 July 2018
Saw this when i was a kid. Revisited it recently on a blu ray. In post-war Rome, Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani) is offered a job of putting posters up in the city but that job requires a bicycle. Antonio hails from a poverty stricken class n he cannot afford to miss this job as unemployment is very high. Trouble is he had already pawned the bicycle to put food on the table for his family. His resourceful wife sells the bed linens in order to get the money to get his bicycle back. One of the most touching scene is when Antonio and his small son Bruno goes to work carrying their egg sandwiches. Antonio drops the kid at the gas station n so its implied that the kid works there, while he goes in the city to paste the posters n on the very first day his bicycle is robbed by a thief who manages to get away. Director Vittorio De Sica captured the working class lifestyle to perfection by avoiding professional actors and going for real, everyday people n real locations with the everyday hustle and bustle. The film succeeded in capturing the grim realities of regular working people and the everyday struggle. Lamberto Maggiorani being a non professional actor did a terrific job. We as audience empathize with him n his struggles n in the final act in spite of him doing a wrong thing, we want him to succeed. Another noteworthy thing is the small kid. The hotel lunch scene was also very touching. The dialogues before the lunch scene, lets go down in style & everything has a cure except death by Antonio to his son is really encouraging. This film is relevant today due to people living in ghettos.
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