I was struggling with how to review film studies perennial The Bicycle Thief without sounding like I was in film school. Instead I decided I would approach De Sica's masterpiece as I would any film and review it from the gut instead of from the head.
The Bicycle Thief is a devastatingly emotional film. The story is simple, as is the construction of the film. A man's bicycle is stolen - the bicycle he needs to do his job and therefore feed his impoverished family - and he spends the duration of the movie in a vain attempt to recover it. It is the simplicity of the film which gives The Bicycle Thief such raw emotional power.
The Bicycle Thief is everyman's struggle against the frustrations of modernity. It's melodrama wrenches and tears you up inside. The purity of the destruction of a man's dignity is both riveting and devastating.
Sure the performances are wooden in that structuralist way that post-modern audiences eschew but this is tempered by Enzo Staiola, the young boy who plays our protagonist's son, who does what the best child actors do, acts naturally. He is the very definition of an "old soul" and he is a joy to watch on screen.
The silver screen never looked as gorgeous as it does in The Bicycle Thief despite the director's focus on the gritty side of life in Rome. He seems to be focusing on patterns in his cinematography creating beautiful forms to fill the screen. Watch for triples and quadruples in the arrangement of space in The Bicycle Thief. I have only ever seen this film on DVD but I have always wished I could have experienced it on the big screen as it was intended.
The Bicycle Thief is usually only ever viewed to be studied but to sit down and simply enjoy this little everyday tragedy is a true joy. I strongly recommend tracking down a copy of this gem and losing yourself in this masterpiece.