Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Man on the Bike: The Bicycle Thief

A great Italian film, and one of the most manipulative movies I've ever seen. It's one of the greatest films about work of all time. It triggers your desperate side as you relate with the main character within minutes. That man is Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani), who has been selected for a high-paying job where it is required that the person in the position (which is poster applier) own and use a bike. His first day on the job, his bicycle, which he had paid 6,500 lira to repair, is stolen by a mystery man, who blends into the wide expanse of Rome. This sets up the main tension: find that bike or your in deep trouble. He goes after the thief with his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) and a few others. This involves tracking down an old man who made a deal with the young guy and chasing him through a mass, plus the fact that the bike could have been taken apart. They also go to an unhelpful soothsayer who tells them the irrelevant advice "you must find it today or you will never find it." She charges fifteen lira, so that's basically fraud, except people trust her so much that they won't bust her. Anyways, the dynamic duo actually finds the thief, but the bike has been disassembled. When they go to get the help of a cop, he states the simple truth: it's you vs. them. They refuse to press charges. Now the law is not the same. Justice has not been done, so Antonio decides to steal a bike himself, his own kid watching. But again his luck runs dry. The owner is just coming out of his apartment when Antonio is swiping. He then gets the entire neighborhood to pursue him and the bike stealing attempt is thwarted. He is let off, but he and his son blend into the crowd in one of the most depressing endings of all time. No wonder the film was given an honorary Oscar: it has power that few films have ever channeled. The choice by director Vittorio De Sica to cast amateur actors pays off big time and it really paints a portrait of 1940's, post-war Italy. Maggiorani is a great actor, as is Staiola, who proves to be amazing as the confused and saddened son. This film shows that you don't need a complicated plot or famous actors to do a great job. Bottom line: De Sica creates a cinematic masterpiece in every way possible, managing to blow minds on every level. He does not miss a beat. Enough said. A

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