April 28, 2014

The Bicycle Thief

Vittorio De Sica, 1948
Antonio's (Lamberto Maggiorani) sudden excitement from landing a new job putting up posters throughout the city is diminished when the bicycle he needs to complete his work on a daily basis is stolen.

A truly minimalist story in which the plot could really be summed up by saying its a movie about a man looking for his bike. But of course it's more than that. The pursuit of this precious sole mode of transportation is so important. The Post WWII environment leaves a lot of specialized men desperately looking for work. Desperate to the point where they are stepping over one another in an effort to take what positions they can get. When he realizes that the contingency of his new position is that he needs a bicycle to make the rounds, the bicycle becomes more than just soldered pieces of steel with two wheels. It becomes an idol of his livelihood. He NEEDS this job to prove himself as a provider to his family. In that sense, Antonio is the post-war everyman. He has mouths to feed. His son Bruno (Enzo Staiola being the standout performance of the film) looks up to him, often literally looking up to him from a few feet below as he stands beside him. Bruno becomes his mouthy companion as he scours the city looking for the priceless piece. You get a feeling Antonio is fighting for his life. The city around him feels unforgiving. He fiercely searches for the bike, making sudden turns down stucco alleyways and meticulously exploring the local marketplaces. De Sica's simple story plays out on screen as anything but. The well-choreographed scenes literally come to life as the entire city is seemingly involved in the film, of course by no accident and a real testament to De Sica's abilities. A true needle in the haystack story. So much of the film feels ahead of its time, from the clean editing to the tracking shots. This is one of those classics that should just be in the annual rotation from this point forward.

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