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. It is defined and encapsulated by this striking film directed by Vittorio De Sica. No, its priority is the heart and soul that was put into it. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. This man and his wife try to find a way to keep going; they have so little. 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. He even hangs a picture that symbolizes the absolute opposite of the misery surrounding him. It has captured every honor that the world of film can bestow including an Academy Honorary Award in 1950. That ending is easily one of the most memorable in a film ever, it's just so heartwrenching and profound.
He is not an actor, however, and maybe this is why the film hits its mark so well and comes across so realistically. Maggiorani looks like a cross between Humphrey Bogart and Clint Eastwood! And, as you can tell from the title, it is stolen on his first day of work. The economy was horrible, and the towns and cities were half-destroyed and decaying. The film is grueling and despairing. An honest, non-corporate portrait of the struggle for life and self-respect. These are the tense moments of the film's climax.
The economy was horrible, and the towns and cities were half-destroyed and decaying. It is a small, sad world they live in and the bike has to be found so that they can live. 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. It's a decent film, but falls far short of its reputation as one of the all-time greats. 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.
But soon his bicycle is stolen. Antonio and his son Bruno Enzo Staiola spend the Sunday chasing the bicycle and the thief on the streets of Rome. After years I can still see the images. 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. 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. His job is to plaster film posters up on the walls of buildings all over Rome. Bicycle Thieves performs the central function of art, which is to discover the meaning of life.
The result is remarkable, because the pain and emotions conveyed are so true. The thing is that it is so human. 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. 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. Work is scarce and the opportunities for employment are few and far between.
His job is to plaster film posters up on the walls of buildings all over Rome. Enzo Staiola is just as splendid as Ricci's cute son Bruno. It's interesting how the crowds that judge this man counter the efforts he has made. There is widespread unemployment, everyone trying to scrape a living. 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. But soon his bicycle is stolen.
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. 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. The options are starvation and abandonment. Ultimately it is just so human. Carlo Montuori's photography is brilliant, and Antonio Traverso's production design is pungent and atmospheric. 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. 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.
He is not an actor, however, and maybe this is why the film hits its mark so well and comes across so realistically. He is so expressive and genuine. 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. However, he needs to retrieve his bicycle in the pawn shop but he does not have money. Naturally tragedy strikes immediately as the title character shows up the very first day Maggiorani is on the job.