Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Bicycle Thief (1948)

The Bicycle Thief (1948) ★★★★★ 5/5

Following World War II, Rome suffers greatly and poverty affects the population. Men gather in the morning to hear if they are selected to work. Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) is chosen for a job to hang movie posters throughout the city so long as he has a bike. Accepting the job, he rushes home to his wife (Lianella Carell) and tells her of the news. Yet there is a problem, he doesn't actually own his bike. He had pawned it off for food. In order to get the bike back, his wife pawns their linens. It seems to be a good exchange as the income Ricci will bring in with his new job will greatly make up for it.

While working one day, hanging up a poster of Rita Hayworth, his bike is stolen. Panic striken he tries to chase the thief down with no avial. Devastated, not by losing his bike, but at the realization he has no way of bringing in any income and supporting his family, he retreats home where he meets his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola ) and the hunt for the bike begins.

Rizzo, with help from his son, spend the following day looking for the bike. They see it at one point and track down the man riding it. A policeman is summoned to search the home of the accussed while an angry mob threatens Ricci for his claims. Ricci leaves, lost and bewildered at the thought of not having his bike. Eventually he is driven to theft himself and unsuccessfully attempts to steal someone else's bike.

Lianella Carell has a natural beauty to her which makes her moments on the screen joyous and life like. While the family suffers extreme poverty, there is no denying the relationship between her character and Ricci comes off as very real, and very loving. Enzo Staiola as Bruno steals every scene he is in. In fact, the movie subtly shifts it's focus on the bike and infuses the relationship between Bruno and Ricci into your subconcious. There are a lot of issues at hand in this film and one of the strongest is that between Father and Son. In one day, the two experience several emotions. One of the most touching scenes is when the two splurge at a fancy resturant and Ricci tries to explain what finding the bike and keeping his job will mean. Bruno knows the hardships they face. Bruno's frugality in this scene is tender. Ricci hits Bruno at one point out of frustration and magically we feel the same frustration as the two characters. one being frustration and the other a betrayal of sorts. Ricci hears news that a boy is drowning in the river and our hearts sink as he runs to the victim with Bruno being nowhere in site. In the finale, when Bruno sees his Father caught with a stolen bike, it arouses so many thoughts. Ricci, without saying a word, tells us of his humiliation and his shame for letting down his son. Bruno compliments the scene by showing us the pride and love he has for his Father. It is beautiful, emotional and magical.

This is a simple film about a man trying to get his bike back. But the underlying themes of the film make it one of the most complex films when analyzed. The relationship between a Father and son as Bruno and Ricci bond. Employment issues and the fact that to make money, you need money. Without a bike, Ricci has no way to make money, and he can't get a bike without money. Rich vs poor. This is clearly an underlying theme as Bruno and Ricci dine in a resturant as a wealthy family eats at a nearby table. It also comes into play in the irony of Ricci hanging up glamorous posters of Rita Hayworth throughout the deteriorating city of Rome.

The film is a beautiful one and evokes much emotion, particularily in the scenes involving Ricci and Bruno. It is much more then the story of a stolen bike. It is the story of a bond between a Father and Son and the unconditional love, respect and admiration the have for one another.

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