#90: Bicycle Thieves (1948)

When and how did I watch this?

October 17th, 2016 on Amazon Instant Video.

Had I seen this film already?

Nope.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Nothing.  I’d never even heard of it.

What do I know about it now?

While America swiftly recovered from World War II and headed into an unprecedented economic boom, much of Europe struggled tremendously for decades from displacement, financial ruin, and broken political systems. “Bicycle Thieves” is a brilliant snapshot of a regular family from Italy just plain trying to make it after the dismantlement of Mussolini’s regime. The situation is bleak, but not overplayed.  We’re introduced to the plight with a mass of skilled workers grouped together in front of a guy handing out jobs. The lucky ones who get work have to get to the job on bike, our protagonist among them. He gets to the site, but his bike is stolen, as the title implies.  The remainder of the story is told from a near-first person perspective.  He is faced with the dilemma of losing future work and eating the cost, or spending the next 24 hours desperately looking for the bike and even being tempted to steal one himself. But the film doesn’t run like some crime drama mystery, as one might expect, but as a gripping drama and a moral treatise on the behavior of a man desperate to survive.  Antonio is joined by his son for the majority of the film, who at first is as motivated as his father, but gradually his resolve diminishes as time passes (and why wouldn’t it?) It’s strikingly realistic and contains endless truths that can only be presented by film.  The score is haunting and unforgettable.

What are some themes in the film?

Poverty, desperation, WWII, family, prejudice

Did this affect me personally?

Yes. How couldn’t it?

Why is this ranked #90?

I read that this was once voted as the greatest movie of all time. It has since dropped in rank, of course, but I can still see how and why. It’s one of the best foreign films on this list for sure, but there’s still more to go.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She did, but didn’t watch all of it.

Would I watch it again?

It’s tough to watch, but is not unlike reading a novel.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

It’s one of the most important films you’ll ever see.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Yes.  It’s not a dynamic and entertaining film, as several on this list have been, but it captures what the medium of film was invented for: to tell a story in a new way, with people and movement and sound. What an unforgettable story it tells! We’re left speechless in the end. I’m glad this made its way up the list, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.

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