The Bicycle Thief

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Vittoria De Sica

REVIEWED: 07-28-97

L'Amberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lionella Carell.

No witty cutline repartee this week. This frame from The Bicycle Thief beautifully illustrates its moving cinematography.

Antonio Ricci is a man who needs a bicycle to keep a job and a job to keep his dignity, and struggles on the edge of losing all three. From this simple tale arises a film of complex beauty, a film that is both a searing portrait of post-war Rome and a finely realized meditation on family, fate, and circumstance. It is both expansive and intimate, wide in scope and yet crushingly human. L'Amberto Maggiorani's portrayal of the besieged Antonio is a wonder, packed with a rich and bitter emotion that stays with you long after the movie ends. (My girlfriend says that a lot of heartache could have been avoided if 1940s Rome only had a Yellow Bike program, but that's another story.) Film scholars will tell you that The Bicycle Thief is a masterpiece of Italian neo-realism, a deceptively simple film that challenged prevailing ideas about plot, mood, and dramatic structure. I will tell you it's a damn good story and we'll both be right. The video format may not do justice to the stifling crowd scenes, and the subtitles are a bit sparse, but no matter: The Bicycle Thief says much of what it says without words, plays well on any screen, and is rightfully a classic.

--Jay Hardwig

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