He Wants to Ride his Bicycle
Times are difficult for many in the area and so when Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) is offered work putting posters up in the city he can't say no. Trouble is he needs his bicycle but had to pawn it to put food on the table for his family. Fortunately his resourceful wife, Maria (Lianella Carell), washes their bed linen and sells it in order to get the money to get his bicycle back. But on his first day at work, having taken son Bruno (Enzo Stailola) to the bus stop to go to school, Ricci's bicycle is stolen and despite reporting it to the police they won't do much. Even when having scoured the streets with his son in tow, Ricci discovers even tracking down the thief is futile. But with a need for a bike for work it is a desperate time for the struggling father.
"Bicycle Thieves" is one of those movies which always seem to get mentioned when ever someone starts talking about great cinema, especially great foreign cinema. The thing is that whilst if I split "Bicycle Thieves" down into its various parts it ticks many a box it is as a whole I have to say that it didn't grab me in the same way it has grabbed others. And I will be honest I don't know what it was for me which was either missing or not quite right which prevented "Bicycle Thieves" from being the great viewing experience that others have had.
But as I said, if I broke "Bicycle Thieves" down into parts it ticks a lot of boxes starting with this look at the difficulties facing Italian's post war where people were selling the sheets off of their beds to survive whilst some seemed to be living in the lap of luxury still. And at the centre of this is Ricci and son Bruno who desperately try to find the stolen bicycle because it simply means a chance to get out of the financial difficulty they are living through. I suppose the way the storyline plays out is a little flawed but the increasing desperation of Ricci as regaining his bicycle becomes less and less likely is quite powerful especially with his son Bruno taking the brunt of it from being hit to having to watch his father essentially lose it.
And it has to be said that "Bicycle Thieves" is a beautifully shot movie, not fancy with lots of camera's and effects, but just a simply shot movie where the camera captures life. By that you get a sense of what is going on in Italy at the time from reconstruction work to buildings to the bustle of city streets. It is simply visually beautiful although to be honest that doesn't surprise me because for some reason Italian cinema has always had a strong sense of style without going overboard.
And the icing on the cake is Lamberto Maggiorani who delivers this wonderful performance as Ricci. We see the pride he has at getting work and the desire to do well because he knows what work means to him and his family. But over the course of the movie we watch as he is almost destroyed as his desperation to find his bicycle and the thief makes him lose it and start making bad choices.
What this all boils down to is that "Bicycle Thieves" is a good movie and all the parts of it work. But for some reason I find that as a whole "Bicycle Thieves" doesn't have the same effect on me as it has on others and so for me it remains a good movie and certainly a beautiful movie but not a great movie.