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Favourite Film Friday: Bicycle Thieves (1948)

This classic, black-and-white, Italian Neo-Realist film depicts the effects of World War II in Italy through the simple tale of a man and his young son searching the city of Rome for his stolen bicycle. It is a powerfully moving story as the search is given special significance since the bicycle is the only thing keeping the desperate father employed and the only hope of saving the family from utter destitution. As the man and his son journey on foot throughout the city, they encounter more poor and forlorn people like themselves, and other colourful members of the community. They visit a bustling market, a church-turned-soup kitchen, a brothel, the home of a “seer”, and cheery restaurant where the son enviously watches a rich boy eating pasta. The film, from scene to scene, is truly an eye-opening study of poverty-stricken, post-war Italy. One memorable shot in the film is of the poverty-stricken masses pawning off items that end up sitting in a massive warehouse of goods. The ending of Bicycle Thieves, which was translated to The Bicycle Thief when brought to America, is completely heart-breaking and gives the title of the film so much weight.

What is an interesting feature of Italian Neo-Realism, and thus also of Bicycle Thieves, is that the cast is mainly comprised not of professional actors but of everyday people playing versions of themselves. Even so, the actors do an amazing job, especially the seven-year old boy playing the role of the son (he’s hilarious and adorable with mannerisms of a 40 year old man and the audacity to chastise his father). The director, Vittorio De Sica, helped pioneer the genre of Italian Neo-Realism, a short-lived movement but which resulted in one of the greatest films of all time, Bicycle Thieves.

Rating: 5 out of 5 pieces of mozzarella-covered bread.

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