Mon, 29 July 2019
From Jonathan Rosenbaum, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:
"Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani), an unemployed worker in postwar Rome, finds a job putting up movie posters after his wife pawns the family's bedsheets to get his bicycle out of hock. But right after he starts work the bike is stolen, and with his little boy Bruno (Enzo Staiola) in tow he crisscrosses the city trying to retrieve it, encountering various aspects of Roman society, including some of the more active class differences, in the process.
"This masterpiece - the Italian title translates as 'bicycle thieves' - is one of the key works of Italian Neorealism. French critic Andre Bazin also recognized it as one of the great communist films. The fact that it received the 1949 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film suggests that it wasn't perceived that way in the United States at the time. Ironically, the only thing American censors cared about was a scene in which the little boy urinates on the street. For some followers of auteur theory the film lost some of its power because it didn't derive from a single creative intelligence. A collaboration between screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, Vittorio De Sica, nonprofessional actors, and many others, the production is so charged with a common purpose that there is little point in even trying to separate achievements.
"The Bicycle Thief contains what is possibly the greatest depiction of a relationship between a father and son in the history of cinema, full of subtle fluctuations and evolving gradations between the two characters in terms of respect and trust, and it's an awesome heartbreaker. It also has its moments of Chaplinesque comedy - the contrasting behavior of two little boys having lunch at the same restaurant. Set alongside a film like Life is Beautiful (1997), it provides some notion of how much mainstream world cinema and its relation to reality has been infantilized over the past half century."
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