The Passion of Joan of Arc
#15 -- My Journey Out: My First Pride

The Bicycle Thief

Film Project #2

The Bicycle Thief
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola
On my list of the ten greatest films of all time

My first exposure to The Bicycle Thief was in the Robert Altman film The Player, when Tim Robbins goes to the movie before killing that guy in the parking lot afterwards. But it was almost ten years later before I saw it.

The Bicycle Thief is one of those films that makes you want to slit your wrists. Maybe the greatest example of neorealism in film, it presents a darkly depressing image. Arthur Miller wrote about it, "The film is unafraid to examine openly, straightforwardly, the terrible distorted destructive world which Man has made for himself." However, it does this with such artistry that I'm captivated to return to this film again and again because the film itself is a sublime work of beauty that speaks to the creative ability humanity does have to create a beautiful world. Thus the paradox. A film that depresses and enobles and uplifts both at the same time. Sheer brilliance.

I think the movie gets more powerful when you see it again. The first time is more suspenseful, but the second or later times are more gut wrenching. When you know what is going to happen to Antonio, you ache in the early scenes when he finds momentary happiness. Last night as Marty and I were watching, I kept groaning and exclaiming during the early scenes, "I'm going to kill myself right now," and it hadn't even gotten genuinely depressing yet.

This film captures the brutality and absurdity of poverty better than any film I know. And it does it in the faces of its actors. Enzo Staiola as the child Bruno gives one of the greatest child performances. He gets the most brilliant moment in the film. The camera locks on his face and pans past it as his eyes fill with shock, horror, fear, confusion, heartache, and about thirty other emotions all in the span of something like fifteen seconds. It is the shot most often played from this movie when it appears in montages at the Oscars.

The movie is full of beautiful images. The rows of bicycles. Antonio running, arm outstretched in front of him. The men on their bicycles carrying the ladders and buckets. Rain drenched people taking shelter next to a building. The man in the pawn shop climbing the stacks. Etc.

Arthur Miller wrote, "The Bicycle Thief is Everyman's search for dignity -- it is as though the soul of a man had been filmed."


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Dave Rattigan

I have always wanted to see this film. I rented it from Vancouver Library once and was cheesed off as hell when I got it home to discover the subtitles went off the bottom of the screen. Grrr.

Barrett Wooten

looks like the hiking trip isnt gonna happen

im fucking furious, irate

call me sometime


Okay, Scott, I'm putting in on our Netflix queue right away. I watched The Passion of Joan of Arc because of you, and it is the most beautiful and moving film I have ever seen. Thanks again for that recommendation. I look forward to watching The Bicycle Thief, and I look forward to seeing what other movies you'll talk about here.

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