The Essential Movie Library #68: Bicycle Thieves (1948) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

The Essential Movie Library #68: Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Antonio supports his family with a much coveted job bicycling around the city to post flyers for American movies, and upon the bicycle's theft the man and his son journey to reclaim it.

Shot soon after the second world war, Vittorio de Sica’s landmark is equally difficult to imagine seeing more than once and never having seen at all. Amid the rubble of a Roman Empire that has fallen yet again, everyone is scrambling to stay afloat, including Antonio who supports his family with a much coveted job bicycling around the city to post flyers for American movies. The bike might as well be made of gold, and when it’s stolen the father’s search to recover it—with his small son in tow—grows more desperate. On the simplest dramas flounder whole lives.

Lamberto Maggiorani who plays Antonio worked in a factory and never had acted before De Sica cast him. The seven-year-old playing his son was watching the filming when the director noticed him and put him in the film (the boy would grow up to be a math teacher). Whether real actors could have managed in as devastating a fashion the final scene, in which hopelessness finally leads to a father’s disgrace and the sort of childhood revelation that constitutes a rubicon for coming of age, is open to question; over the years some have called Bicycle Thieves sentimental, and so it is if you consider the desolate stuff of fathers and sons emotionally trivial. This movie electrified the world, one of those rare films that raised the stakes of cinema forever, and within as few years as can be counted on one hand, an international critics poll named it the greatest picture ever made. 

Read them all:

The Essential Movie Library #67: Pulp Fiction
The Essential Movie Library #66: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
The Essential Movie Library #65: Caché
The Essential Movie Library #64: A Hard Day's Night
The Essential Movie Library #63: The Searchers
The Essential Movie Library #62: The Conformist
The Essential Movie Library #61: Bonnie & Clyde
The Essential Movie Library #60: Sweet Smell of Success
The Essential Movie Library #59: Melancholia
The Essential Movie Library #58: La Dolce Vita
The Essential Movie Library #57: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
The Essential Movie Library #56: Contempt
The Essential Movie Library #55: Sunset Boulevard
The Essential Movie Library #54: Metropolis
The Essential Movie Library #53: In A Lonely Place
The Essential Movie Library #52: Talk to Her
The Essential Movie LIbrary #51: To Be or Not To Be
The Essential Movie Library #50: The Battle of Algiers
The Essential Movie Library #49: Notorious
The Essential Movie Library #48: Wings of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #47: L'Avventura
The Essential Movie Library #46: Malcolm X
The Essential Movie Library #45: In the Mood for Love
The Essential Movie Library #44: Touch of Evil
The Essential Movie Library #43: Once Upon A Time in the West
The Essential Movie Library #42: Belle de Jour
The Essential Movie Library #41: Apocalypse Now
The Essential Movie Library #40: Out of the Past
The Essential Movie Library #39: Branded to Kill
The Essential Movie Library #38: The General
The Essential Movie Library #37: Lord of the Rings
The Essential Movie Library #36: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Essential Movie Library #35: Raging Bull
The Essential Movie Library #34: The Rules of the Game
The Essential Movie Library #33: Chinatown 
The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker
The Essential Movie Library #31: Weekend
The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot 
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin' in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L'Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2
The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine 
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity 
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire 
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man 
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo 
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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