Friday, February 10, 2006

DVD Review - The Bicycle Thief (1948)

Back in the days when I was a film student, this was a film that I was ‘forced to watch’ where I came away feeling as thought the director had taught me a valuable lesson.

Shot in the streets and alleys of post-World War II Rome, Vittorio De Sica's groundbreaking 1947 drama uses the real-life contemporary life to frame the heart tugging drama of a desperate father whose new job is put in jeopardy when a street thief steals his bicycle.

Here we follow the fortune of Antonio, a family man whose wife hocks their household linens so that they can reclaim (from the same pawnshop) a bicycle that is required for the new job, delivering cinema posters, he’s been offered. Honest employment is scarce, the family is poor; and so much depends on retrieving the bike.

This is a film you’ll not forget. This remarkable 1947 drama of desperation and survival in Italy's devastating post-war depression earned De Sica a well-deserved Oscar for its lasting presence and undeniable sense of humanity.

De Sica pioneered a lean, stark and honest delivery by using non-professional performers and the style, with its subject so steeped in the hard post-war life, epitomizes the Italian neorealist approach (with its mix of real life details, poetic imagery, and genuinely warm and heartfelt sentimentality).

There are no subplots and just a few key characters. The dialogue is the day-to-day talk of poor people struggling to live through the reality of the depression. This film has an undeniable air of honesty and stylised documentary that has earned it a well deserved place on the bookshelves of every film theorist, eager film student, world cinema aficionado, and practiced movie critic for the last 20 years.

Movie: 4 out of 5
Extras: 2 out of 5

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