Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Bicycle Thieves (Peroni Nastro Azzurro)

Even those who weren't able to attend Belfast's Queen's Film Theatre, on a cold rainy Saturday in September, shouldn't need me to tell you how good, Vittorio De Sica's 1948 classic, The Bicycle Thieves, is. History has already decided on that.

The film has comprehensively been honoured worldwide by more seasoned critics and scholars than I, often appearing in countless 'Greatest films of all time lists' in the decades since its original release. Can anymore be said about this tragic, at times, heart-warming tale about one man's futile pursuit for his stolen bicycle?

Though considered to be the best example of Italian neo-realism in cinema, The Bicycle Thieves, first and foremost, is just a beautifully made film for all the family. Pure and simple. From the exquisite camera-work, to the powerful leading performance from Lamberto Maggiorani who delves between moments of sincere joy and complete despair.

However, where the film tends to stand the test of time, is in the magnificent - almost iconic - performance from the, then young, Enzo Staiola as Maggiorani's son. His youthful, mischievous spirit and honest observations carries the film, in a similar way Pascal Lamorisse did in 1956 short, The Red Balloon.

Alessandro Cicogrini's score exemplifies the ridiculously suave pieces of music attributed to this era of cinema, and the world feels like a lesser place when compared to some more modern examples. This certainly isn't to say modern cinema can't 'make them like they use to' but The Bicycle Thieves shows, effortlessly, that less can indeed result in so much more.

Final Thoughts
This hasn't been a straight review of a film but more a retrospective. There was certainly a good number of the audience present who have seen The Bicycle Thieves countless times before, but I imagine few - like myself - had the chance to experience this wonderful story on the big screen. It was almost uplifting to experience the sights and sounds in this context. The original English title for the film was The Bicycle Thief, but not until it was retitled as The Bicycle Thieves has the tragically ironic closing scenes become truly realised and continue resonate in the minds of cinema goers for many years to come.


The Bicycle Thieves was shown as part of the Queen's Film Theatre's Peroni Nastro Azzurro season, and currently widely available on DVD from all good outlets.

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