Out of principle I typically stay away from black and white films. I'm not really a technicolor snob, but I have my standards. However, I have read in a few different places that Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thieves (Ladri Di Biciclette in Italian) is a good movie. I looked it up on the library website and found they have a copy so I requested it a couple of weeks ago.
I sat down last Friday and watched it and was impressed. I really didn’t think I'd like it, being black and white and in another language. It was difficult for me to keep my attention on the screen to read the subtitles and keep up with what was going on, but I turned off the laptop and watched the movie.
The story follows Antonio Ricci (portrayed by Lamberto Maggiorani) as he finally finds work I the war ravaged country. Ricci must have a bicycle for the job he is offered but he has pawned his bike to feed his family.
He goes home to tell his wife of his conundrum and she comes up with the quick solution: pawn their sheets to get the bike out of hock.
I love the scenes where they ride two on the bike after he gets it back. The streets are filled with bikes and while you would never call Ricci a "cyclist" it is great to see how he uses the bike throughout the film and how the bike is regarded as a tool for a working man.
Ricci rides from his home outside of Rome into the city to his job and then rides around town while working. There are some inspiring scenes where the bikes outnumber automobiles on the road.
There are a few scenes early on that leave you tense just waiting for the bike to be stolen. You know its going to happen because the film is called The Bicycle Thieves. Finally the deed is done and Ricci spends most of the rest of the movie desperately searching for the bike which becomes less of a simple tool and mode of transportation and more and more a symbol of his family's survival.
The only real problem I had with the film was it seemed to me that he could have somehow continued working until he could afford a new bike. Maybe I missed something in translation. He was 'bent on retrieving the ONE lost bike. Of course if he could find the bike then he would be spared the expense of getting a new one, but the hopelessness of his quest to me seemed to be enough to have turned most people to making plans for a new bike.
Of course economically depressed Italy in the late '40s was not the ideal place to be trying to support a family and it sounds easy to just save up and buy a new bike, but obviously it wouldn’t have been so easy.
Without giving away the ending, suffice it to say that with modern cinematic expectations you'll be surprised at the ending.
I liked the movie and would definitely recommend it and watch it again myself. Maybe I'd pick up on a few more nuances which would help me better understand Ricci's predicament. The fact that De Sica used non-actors and filmed the movie entirely on location makes it interesting and authentic.