93 Min | Comedy | December 1948
IMDB Rating: 8.3
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Vittorio Antonucci
The Bicycle Thief Review: The Bicycle Thief also known as Bicycle Thieves, is director Vittorio De Sica’s 1908 story of a poor father searching post-World War II Rome for his stolen bicycle, without which he will lose the job which was to be the salvation of his young family. Adapted for the screen by Cesare Zavattini from a novel by Luigi Bartolini, and starring Lamberto Maggiorani as the desperate father and Enzo Staiola as his plucky young son, Bicycle Thieves is one of the masterpieces of Italian neorealism. It received an Academy Honorary Award in 1950 and, just four years after its release, was deemed the greatest film of all time by Sight and Sound magazine’s poll of filmmakers and critics, fifty years later the same poll ranked it sixth among greatest-ever films. It is also one of the top ten among the British Film Institute’s list of films you should see by the age of 14.
In The Bicycle Thief, on his first day of work Antonio is atop a ladder when a young man (Vittorio Antonucci) snatches the bicycle. Antonio gives chase but is thrown off the trail by the thief’s confederates. The police take a report but warn that there is little they can do. Advised that stolen goods often surface at the Piazza Vittorio market, Antonio goes there with several friends and his small son Bruno. They find a bike that might be Antonio’s, they summon an officer but the serial numbers do not match. At the Porta Portese market Antonio and Bruno spot the thief with an old man. They pursue the thief but he eludes them. They accost the old man to demand the thief’s identity, about which the old man feigns ignorance. They follow him into a church, but he slips away from them; for this Bruno rebukes his father, and in a moment of anger Antonio slaps his son, then immediately apologizes.
The original Italian title literally translates into English as Bicycle Thieves, biciclette and ladri being plural, but the film has usually been released in the United States as The Bicycle Thief. According to critic Philip French of The Observer (UK), this alternative title is misleading, “because the desperate hero eventually becomes himself a bicycle thief”. The film is released in the UK as the more accurate Bicycle Thieves, and the recent Criterion Collection release in North America uses the plural title. When the film was re-released in the late 1990s Bob Graham, staff film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, was quoted as saying that he preferred the title The Bicycle Thief, stating, “Purists have criticized the English title of the film as a poor translation of the Italian ladri, which is plural. What blindness! The Bicycle Thief is one of those wonderful titles whose power does not sink in until the film is over”.