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Critics reviews
Bicycle Thieves
Vittorio De Sica Italy, 1948
At nearly every turn, De Sica asks the viewer to consider the nature of theft and to what extent an individual could become a complicit component of systemic thievery. Ultimately, the thefts referenced in the film’s title prove to be not just a description, but also a confession, since the film’s ultimate thief is De Sica himself, who dangles the prospect of the bicycle’s recovery just beyond Antonio’s grasp, almost to the point of cruelty.
March 30, 2016
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Bicycle Thieves wasn’t even that “neo-real,” being a studio film that used back projection and employed a number of supporting-role pros. But it remains one of art film’s most powerful gateway drugs, still haunting in its painful simplicity, laced with the unforgettable behavioral moments that may be De Sica’s greatest claim to posterity.
September 08, 2015
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Revealing the catastrophic impact of seemingly minor events on people who are struggling to subsist, De Sica endows slender side business and incidental pictorial details with high suspense and tragic grandeur. With a keen succession of tracking shots amid crowds at a market and a church, he transforms the sheer scale of the city and the vast number of residents in similarly desperate straits into a symphonic lament for the human condition.
September 07, 2015
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Bicycle Thieves is rich, subtle, powerful and – sadly – as relevant today in many ways as when it was made. Besides, as with any film worth its salt, it’s far, far more than just a story, and De Sica’s marvellously vivid images of evocative faces and cityscapes stick in the mind as indelibly as those of Federico Fellini or Michelangelo Antonioni.
August 14, 2015
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While Vittorio De Sica is often considered the more sentimental master of Italian Neorealism (Contrasted with Roberto Rossellini; every major film movement requiring its own Lennon-McCartney dichotomy, apparently), it should be noted that several of his major films (UMBERTO D., MIRACLE IN MILAN) were cast with untrained performers. As a result, an unshakable authenticity lays at the foundation of BICYCLE THIEVES; the actors’ unglamorous faces allow De Sica’s simple story to graze the universal.
May 28, 2010
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I could take in Lamberto Maggiorani’s shoulder blades poking into his thin jacket, the way Enzo Staiola’s mini-grownup face crumples back into heartbroken toddlerhood at a blow from his frustrated father, feel again the incredible release in the beautiful shot of the boy at the top of a staircase, just as we begin to share Maggiorani’s fear that he has drowned.
November 12, 2009
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Celebrating its sixtieth, De Sica’s neo-realist lodestone may have retained its vitality over the decades, but whatever sense of anger it whipped up in the disgruntled masses of postwar Rome feels lost to the excessively syrupy score and ‘doe-eyed kid’ sidekick.
December 16, 2008
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Watching the film today, it’s remarkable to see how certain ideas that were completely radical at the time have since become the common language of “the real.” And yet Bicycle Thieves, along with maybe Roberto Rossellini’s Open City before it and De Sica’s Umberto D a few years later, remains pure and bracing, an indelible look at postwar Italy through the eyes of a man whose slow-burning desperation finally, tragically robs him of dignity.
March 07, 2007
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Bicycle Thieves is truly one of my favorite films. I could watch it over and over again, and in truth, I have. It’s a complicated and eloquent story in spite of its simple plot. The first time I saw Bicycle Thieves was in a class on neorealism, and I was immediately struck by how seamless and real it was, as if a camera were fortunate enough to be present in capturing an actual event.
February 12, 2007
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Judged by the brilliant conviction of Bicycle Thieves, neorealism still looks like our most potent reminder that a whole world exists outside the movie theater, to which our conscience and humanity oblige us to pay attention.
February 12, 2007
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All degrees of human suffering, and the hope of survival in the face of despair are unveiled, as no corner, alley, or marketplace is left unexplored. In each moment, the frame is filled with the same kind of visual realization of the social architecture of the time. The human desperation is immediate and visceral.
September 04, 2005
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This masterpiece–whose Italian title translates as “bicycle thieves”–is generally and correctly known as one of the key works of Italian neorealism, but French critic Andre Bazin also recognized it as one of the great communist films… This is possibly the greatest depiction of a relationship between a father and son in the history of cinema, and it’s an awesome heartbreaker.
March 18, 1999
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Within this unremarkable premise lies the pure eloquence and profoundly affecting story of Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. Filmed in the ravages of postwar Italy, Bicycle Thieves is a searing allegory of the human condition, a caustic narrative of despair and hope, loss and redemption, poignantly told in subtle actions and spare words.
January 01, 1999
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