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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Sometimes you come across a film that transends normal expectations and criticism. 'Classic' might be overused, but if there was ever a film that deserved such status, it is this one. A simple tale - post war Italy and a father's efforts to better himself and his family. And then a bicycle is stolen - that's all. But here we have a man losing everything of what little he has. He must retrieve it, to the point of obsession. If you have even the slenderest of hearts this rough around the edges, black and white masterpiece will move you to the core. The key relationship is that of a son with his dad - it illuminates the whole experience. Don't expect sloppy sentiment - just brilliant story telling and scene setting and 'real' acting.

If you don't see this film you are missing out on one of the best experiences that cinema (and therefore 20th century art) can possibly offer.
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on 28 August 2009
I first saw "Ladri di Biciclette" in 1950, when my elder sister took me to a cinema in London as a treat. I thought that it was the best motion picture I had ever seen. Now the cinema no longer exists, my sister is dead, and I am 79 years old, but I still enjoy watching de Sica's wonderfully acted, photographed and directed film. Its touching story inspires pity and sympathy for one's fellow humans and should therefore improve our behaviour towards them!
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on 23 December 2007
A film of real life, real emotions, real people. Bicycle Thieves was a film like no other because it was made like no other. With non actors, natural light, filmed on locations, the film captured the truth of Neorealism. The film is made up of a series of "small moments." The fact is, the entire movie is made up of pureness. It tackles issues of class, politics, and post war activities. Overall, the film is about life and hope. The unhappy ending only makes the film more real. If you are a son who loved his father and understood who he was and why he was the way he was........watch this movie.
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on 20 February 2006
The Italian neo-realist film movement began around the end of WWII with Roberto Rossellini's OPEN CITY in 1946. It is defined and encapsulated by this striking film directed by Vittorio De Sica. THE BICYCLE THIEVES is the best of a group of films that depicted the hardship and despair that Europeans, specifically Italians, went through after the death and destruction of the war. The economy was horrible, and the towns and cities were half-destroyed and decaying. Rome is the location for THE BICYCLE THIEVES and De Sica shoots the city in grainy black and white with non-professional actors to get a simple, yet unbearingly emotional point across. A simple thing such as a bike can be someone's entire world at that time and losing it means doing something irrational or perhaps necessary.
The lead in the film is played by Lamberto Maggiorani who seems to be a very good actor. He is not an actor, however, and maybe this is why the film hits its mark so well and comes across so realistically. Maggiorani is of this difficult world and his brooding face is a clear indication of this. His job is to plaster film posters up on the walls of buildings all over Rome. He even hangs a picture that symbolizes the absolute opposite of the misery surrounding him. Rita Hayworth from GILDA is on the walls all over the city, a sign of joy to some, a representation of their own lowly status to others.
When the bicycle is actually stolen, the "title" character is sought after by Maggiorani and his young son (Enzo Staiola), a little kid with so much acting ability, you swear this must be a documentary. A grueling search throughout Rome has the essential parts of the movie, because we see up close the actual people and places the neo-realist film movement came to represent. It is a small, sad world they live in and the bike has to be found so that they can live. The father is put to the ultimate test in front of his son. Will he do the honorable thing or will he do what his mind and heart know is only possible? These are the tense moments of the film's climax.
There is a lot of THE BICYCLE THIEVES in Benigni's LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and some obvious comparisons have been drawn because of the father-son relationship. They are worthy of comparison and have equal artistic prowess. What is different about THE BICYCLE THIEVES is the level of intensity maintained throughout. I felt the key element was the music by Alessandro Cicognini, a simple horn that plays so tragically that it is a main character in the picture. What De Sica does here, as well as other neo-realist directors (Rossellini, Fellini), is create for American audiences a powerful counterpoint to what we are used to. An honest, non-corporate portrait of the struggle for life and self-respect. THE BICYCLE THIEVES is one of the finest films ever made and restored / remastered deservedly on this dvd.
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on 2 January 2011
I'm a huge fan of world cinema and am working my way through the 'classics'. I watched this and was really frustrated by the lack of subtitles at key points. It seems that at times where there are quick dialogue interchanges non-Italian speakers are left to figure out what was said. only spaced out discourse is translated. The result is that it is hard to empathise with key characters as you don't know what is being said. I was left with the impression that it was just laziness that didn't give the full translation. Saying that I was glad I watched it and loved the ending. if the subtitles were re-done I would gladly re-watch. I am curious to find out what was actually said in a few scenes.
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on 22 May 2009
It's heartening to see how Vittorio de Sica has created from the most slender means a picture that holds your attention from start to finish.

There's little plot - just a man and his son searching the town of Modena for his stolen bike - and the social comment aspect is laid on not with a trowel but with a light hand. A more politically blinkered directorial hand would have made a lot more hay with the scenes in church as the bicycle seeker with his pressing worry is adrift in a sea of arcane ritual and language. As the man and the boy hurry about the town, De Sica's camera follows them, sometimes in striking close-up at moments of tension and stress, but never crowding them. There's a great naturalistic feel to the street scenes, part of which derives from the huge crowds that throng a number of the scenes; you get the impression of a whole society on the move, out of doors, struggling to make a living and get by.

Add in to these elements the sparing use of brooding music, the energy of a director who engages the viewer as an unblinking but compassionate observer, some unforced, natural acting from the amateur cast, with father and son both excellent, and wrap it all up in a sensibly brief running time, and you have a fine package.

An unusual, very worthwhile film.
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on 16 August 2010
This film is incredible in every way and I highly recommended it.

However, when it comes to subtitles, I'm beginning to understand Americans aversion to them. This dvd's English subtitles are of the worst possibly quality, missing more than half of the lines and offering the translation in completely wrong timing - something I have never found in subtitles of my own language.
If it wasn't for the fact that, as a Portuguese speaker, I can understand Italian well enough to compensate for the missing subtitles, I wouldn't even have finished watching it.

This is not the first time I've encountered bad English subtitles. However, these were so terrible they were either made by a child or someone extremely lazy.

Also, on the back it reads "Too poor to by another, he and his son...". Noticed the typo? That's on the backcover.
edit: Another problem I just noticed: it says running time 143min, but the movie is close to 90 minutes long.

The image quality is fine, but make no mistake, this is a terrible edition. If you can, buy a different version.
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on 2 September 2005
Nice to see such insightful reviews by the film studies students ('boooooooooring')... perhaps well acted, intelligent, and ground breaking films aren't their style?!
This classic film depicts the quiet desperation of a poor family in Rome attempting to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of World War 2. The social impact of Italy's shattered economy is reflected by the heartbreaking scene at the beginning where a crowd of unemployed men wait desperately for work.
The simple premise of a man in search of a bicycle (which he needs to sustain his family)takes the viewer on a spiritual and political quest for identity and meaning through all levels of society. Along the way we meet priests, police, the bourgeoise, fortunetellers, peddlers, crooks, beggars and thieves.
The direction is compelling and the cinematography decades ahead of its time. The father son relationship is especially well explored - the acting of young boy who watches his father's gradual moral and spiritual collapse is unforgettable. The Bicycle Thief also has one of the most emotionally powerful endings I have ever seen.
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"The Bicycle Thief," a dramatic, grainy black and white Italian film released in 1949, has long been considered one of the greats, for several reasons. The strongest must be that, along with Roberto Rossellini's 1946 Rome, Open City [DVD] [1945], it gives us an unvarnished look at Rome, shortly after the end of World War II that the Italians definitively lost. The city is devastated; its people are desperate for jobs, food, and shelter.

The movie was written by Cesare Zavattini, frequent collaborator of its director, Vittorio De Sica, erstwhile matinée idol, who took his camera onto the streets of Rome, used amateur actors, and filmed in natural light. He and Rossellini were therefore described as adherents of the "neorealist" school.

The plot of BICYCLE THIEVES is, of course, well-known. Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani), one of the city's throngs of long-term unemployed, finally gets a job, and a good one with the city: putting up posters. But ownership of a bike is a prerequisite. His wife Maria (Lianella Carell) gets his out of hock by pawning the sheets in her dowry. On Ricci's very first day on the job, while he's hanging a poster of Rita Hayworth in "Gilda," his attention wanders from the bike. And it's gone, stolen just like that. He and his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) frantically search the city for it. Maggiorani and Staiola, though both amateurs, turn in intense, fully inhabited performances. Staiola's, as the son Bruno, is extraordinarily expressive: his eyes can speak volumes. Many critics will tell you that, stolen bicycle aside; the movie is most moving in its depiction of a strong father/son bond. And many more will point out that the relationship shown here strongly influenced the Oscar-winning World War II Holocaust film, Life Is Beautiful [DVD], by Roberto Benigni.

BICYCLE THIEVES is certainly realistic. There's a scene where Bruno is trying to cross a street to join his father; he's brushed back twice by traffic. As De Sica was filming on actual, live location, these two near accidents really happened, and were left in the picture. Furthermore, Maggiorani had been one of the city's unemployed before filming, and he would continue to struggle for work afterwards.

It's said that prospective producer David O. Selznick proposed Cary Grant for the lead, and that De Sica countered by asking for Henry Fonda. BICYCLE THIEVES received a Special Oscar before the Best Foreign Film Category was established.

De Sica was born into poverty in a village near Rome, and grew up in always poor southern Naples. His first job was as an office clerk, but he made his screen debut, as an actor, in his teens. He joined a stage company in 1923, and became a theater matinée idol; he would soon become a cinematic matinée idol as well. He was a compulsive gambler, and a communist (there were many of them in Italy after the War), and his politics surely influenced his work. In 1970, shortly before the director's death, he made The Garden of the Finzi Contini [DVD], about Italian Jews leading doomed lives during WWII, and its attendant Holocaust, that won another Oscar. In 1961, he made another WWII picture, Two Women - Uncut 186min Edition! - Sophia Loren [DVD] [1988] (based on the novel of the same name by Alberto Moravia--Two Women),that won its star, Sophia Loren, a Best Actress Oscar, an extremely rare one, as given for a performance not in English. Throughout his acting career - De Sica continued to act, to pay for his movie making --he was best known for light earthy sex comedies, and often played opposite the great female Italian stars of the day, Loren, and Gina Lollobrigida.

This picture was called "The Bicycle Thieves," in the original Italian, as in its English release: De Sica certainly had an eye for irony. His film retains much of its power to the present day, and probably will, into the future. Between them, BICYCLE THIEVES and ROME:OPEN CITY will quite likely last as long as celluloid does, giving us a closely-observed look at a great city, and its people, in defeat.
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on 27 October 2010
I had heard about this film, but had never seen it until now. It is a simple story of a poor man and his young son searching for his stolen bicycle in post-war Rome. Everything is authentic. The setting is literally the streets of 1948 Rome and the actors are non-professionals, who were actually cast from the local streets. The father is unemployed and when he finally gets a lowly-paid job, he requires his pawned bicycle for his work putting up cinema posters. There is so much pathos and the relationship between father and son is heart-wrenching. Be prepared to cry. The detail is so well captured, like the threadbare jacket worn by the father.
The film should be placed in the context of the time when it was made and in that respect it is outstanding.
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