By Robert S. C. Gordon
Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette) Vittorio de Sica, 1948 is unarguably one of many primary motion pictures within the historical past of cinema. it's also probably the most beguiling, relocating and (apparently) uncomplicated items of narrative cinema ever made. The movie tells the tale of 1 guy and his son, as they seek fruitlessly during the streets of Rome for his stolen bicycle; the bicycle which had eventually freed him from the poverty and humiliation of longterm unemployment.
One of a cluster of amazing motion pictures to return out of post-war, post-Fascist Italy after 1945 – loosely labelled ‘neo-realist’ – Bicycle Thieves gained an Oscar in 1949, crowned the 1st Sight and Sound ballot of the easiest movies of all time in 1952 and has been highly influential all through global cinema ever since. It is still an important aspect of reference for any cinematic engagement with the labyrinthine adventure of the trendy urban, the travails of poverty within the modern global, the advanced bond among fathers and sons, and the capability of the digicam to trap anything just like the essence of all of these.
Robert S. C. Gordon’s BFI movie Classics quantity exhibits how Bicycle Thieves is ripe for re-viewing, for rescuing from its useful prestige as a neo-realist ‘classic’. It appears to be like on the film’s drawn-out making plans and creation background, the colourful and riven context during which it was once made, and the dynamic geography, geometry and sociology of the movie that resulted.
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Even the editing helps: the matching dissolves distil the journey into an easy sequence interweaving close-ups and character shots with different cityscapes - the shining new borgate in the deep background, the city gate, Via del Corso (see p. 77 and p. 68). Indeed, Eraldo Da Roma's persistent use of the dissolve throughout (there are ten major dissolves in the film) gives us a different sort of transition, a conjoining and intermingling of spaces or city sites, a fluid work of analogy that underscores the play of movement and repetition that runs through the film at so many levels, Buses, trams, cars and lorries all play their part in conveying the sense of navigating the city.
The latter too is peppered with icons and objects that mix religion and family, showing the persistence of old-world cultures of superstition and ritual (saints, but also a horseshoe hanging on the back of the front door) even in this modern setting, even in this (we surmise) Communist family. And the wide social spectrum of La Santona's clients - young and old, poorer and richer; the police marshal, and so on - tells us that certain rituals and beliefs, and social needs, cut across class divisions.
There's the boys' game of piastrelle, the stonethrowing game outside La Santona's, staged and choreographed very carefully to connote innocent play but also a possible looming threat of theft at the same time . In an interesting moment of shared popular culture, Antonio instantly joins in the game - again, a form of old communal bonding - telling the boys whose stone is in the winning position (p. 98); and this contact is enough to convince him to trust the boys to look after the bike as he goes upstairs to retrieve Maria.