Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948) is consistently ranked in lists of the greatest films ever made. The Italian movie has influenced generations of directors, actors and cinematographers. It is one of the most identifiable Italian films, no mean feat given the number of classics that have rolled out of that country over the years.
Why? De Sica didn’t invent Italian neo-realism, the movement under which his film is classified, and which describes dramas about the challenges faced by urban working-class and indigent characters. De Sica wasn’t the first Italian director to move out of the sets and into real locations, use non-professional actors or examine the emotional price of poverty. Yet, Bicycle Thieves endures into its 75th year of existence and holds up on repeat viewings. As a portrait of precariousness, few films match its raw power and unexpected beauty.
The 89-minute movie is available on MUBI. Bicycle Thieves is set in Rome after World War II. Amidst bombed-out buildings, new tenements that still being built and masses of unemployed people, Antonio manages to find a job pasting advertising bills.
The proviso: he will need to use his cycle. When his cycle gets stolen, Antonio, accompanied by his son Bruno, embarks on a desperate hunt for it.
The simple plot is…