Bicycle Thieves / Ladri di biciclette (1948)

5.0 out of 5

Cinecittà was, after the war, a refugee camp and much of the studio system was, along with the wider economy, pretty much in tatters. Neorealism was not just a practical consideration but one of political manifesto as authenticity of location, cast and so on characterized a new and politically radical way of story telling with its roots in the political resistance of the fascist era.

As sweet as the non actor leads, Lamberto Maggiorani and young Enzo Staiola, play it, there is much sadness in the cruelty of the conditions as a fundamentally honest man gets his bicycle, his means to work, stolen. His journey, on the trail of the thief takes him through the soup kitchens of the moralistic rich who force the homeless to pray before they are allowed to sit and eat, through the black market trade in bicycle parts, introduces him and the viewer to an inept and often indifferent police force clearly out of their depth. Welfare lines, poverty, homelessness and radical political meetings are also depicted.

With a conclusion that is heartbreaking, thought provoking and worthy of deep consideration on so many levels the film is a landmark in cinema history. Ladri di biciclette is a must see work.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics