Review: Bicycle Thieves
Blu-ray: Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Bicycle Thieves is along with Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City, one of the most famous works of Italian neorealism, a movement that aimed to give Italian cinema a new degree of post war realism. Director De Sica wanted to show the dire poverty and huge unemployment of post war Italy and was unable to get financial backing from any major studio for the film, so he raised the money himself from friends, and co-wrote a script with Cesare Zavattini using the title and few plot points from a novel of the time by poet/artist Luigi Bartolini.
De Sica shot only on location, used no studio sets and cast only untrained non actors (Lamberto Maggiorani who plays the protagonist Antonio Ricci was a factory worker.) The fact that some of actor’s roles paralleled their lives off screen gave an added realism to the film. The director cast Maggiorani when he had brought his young son to an audition for the film. He later cast the 8-year-old Enzo Staiola as Bruno the son, when he noticed the young boy watching the film’s production on a street while helping his father sell flowers.
It’s a pretty straight forward story, unemployed man with a family gets a job, but in order to do this job he must have a bicycle. His bike is at the pawnbrokers, so selling all they can to retrieve it he starts work, but as he’s distracted with his work a man steals his bike. And so begins the quest all around Roma to find it. Tagging along is his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola).
Although I’ve seen most ‘must see before you die’ films, Bicycle Thieves is one that passed me by, and I have to agree with all the film critics who hail it as a masterpiece of true cinema. It has an aspect, a vibe almost that you can’t put your finger on. It’s dated, it’s melodramatic, but there is something intangible about it that makes you glued to the screen and the forlorn adventure of Antonio and Bruno.
It’s a film that has truly affected me, possibly because it’s a snapshot of Rome in 1948 and the feeling of sheer hopelessness is palpable in it. Also Enzo Stailoa and Lamberto Maggiorani give the most incredibly believable performances.
It’s a film I will definitely watch again, only next time I will have tissues at the ready.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
- Brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative
- Original uncompressed PCM mono Audio
- Feature length audio commentary by Italian Cinema expert Robert Gordon, author of BFI Modern Classics Bicycle Thieves
- Money Has Been My Ruin – a brand new video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns on Vittorio De Sica’s career and filmmaking
- Indiscretion of an American Film Producer – a brand new video essay by film historian Kat who really gets on my nerves to the point that I won’t listen to her anymore Ellinger on De Sica’s relationship with Hollywood producers David O. Selznick and Joseph E. Levine and the version that never was which no doubt will be really boring.
- Original trailer advertising De Sica’s films, featuring Bicycle Thieves star Lamberto Maggiorani and Francesco Golisano presenting Miracle in Milan
- Optional English subtitles
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Vince McIndoe
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring writing on the film by film historian Michael Brooke, archival writings by Zavattini, De Sica, and contemporary reviews, illustrated with original stills and artwork.
review by Tina from a disc kindly supplied by Arrow Films via Fetch Publicity.