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Bicycle Thieves

#123 - Bicycle Thieves
Vittorio de Sica, 1948

In post-WWII Italy, an impoverished family man takes a job that requires him to ride a bicycle. When his bicycle is stolen, he struggles to find it again.

I can definitely see why Bicycle Thieves is a widely acclaimed classic. The basic premise is admittedly rather thin to the point where I spent the first fifteen minutes wondering when they were actually going to get to the bicycle being stolen. Keeping in mind how the streaming version I watched was about 83 minutes in length, that's quite a long time for the main plot to start. Once that happens, the plot becomes a series of vignettes where the protagonist and his young son wander all over Rome chasing up leads on the bicycle, some of which really don't go anywhere (the entire sequence where they follow an old man to a church feels a bit too drawn-out for its own good). The fact that so many of their leads don't go anywhere is arguably the point the film is trying to make, but it does make the film drag a little.

In keeping with the neo-realism angle there is very little music (not like what music plays is very remarkable) and the photography naturally grainy and documentarian in nature. The lack of professional actors obviously works in the film's favour. I also liked how, despite the fact that a small child tags along and naturally acts out due to the thankless chore of being dragged around the city, the film is almost completely devoid of mawkish sentimentality - even a scene where father and son have a bonding moment in an eatery is still undercut by desperation and classism, and it's more or less the only one of its kind in the film. It all builds to an ending that you can sort of see coming but are still sufficiently shocked by. Definitely essential viewing, though whether or not it's actually enjoyable or entertaining in any way, shape or form will most definitely vary.