The Bicycle Thief (1948)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Family Drama, Urban Drama  |   Release Date - Dec 12, 1949 (USA - Limited), Oct 2, 1998 (USA - Rerelease)  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - France, Italy  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

Though not the first Italian Neo-Realist film seen outside of Italy (or even Vittorio De Sica's first Neo-Realist work), The Bicycle Thief (1948) is considered the seminal film of the movement, alongside Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City (1945). Following the guiding Neo-Realist precept of drawing stories from the daily life of post-war Italy, De Sica and writer Cesare Zavattini carefully interweave a wider view of Italian culture with a portrait of the bond between a father and son, revealing the impact of poverty and bureaucratic absurdities on one of many struggling families. Shooting on location with non-professional actors in the two leads (well-coached by actor De Sica), De Sica's mobile camera transforms moments of Antonio's odyssey into poetic images of isolation and despair, while never losing sight of the gritty hardships of quotidian experience. An even greater international sensation than his first Neo-Realist film (Shoeshine (1946)), The Bicycle Thief earned a special Oscar for Best Foreign Film and became a signature work for a movement that also included Bitter Rice (1948), Luchino Visconti's La Terra Trema (1948), and De Sica's Umberto D. (1952). Inspiring filmmakers across the world as an alternative to expensive Hollywood fantasy, The Bicycle Thief revealed the potential power of combining local concerns with an unflinching cinematic style.