Bicycle Thieves ★★★★★

Simply and authentically but with power and poignance, Vittorio De Sica tells the cinematic story of "Ladri di bicilette" or "Bicycle Thieves." A film about hope, perseverance, and struggle, De Sica's drama is stark and spare but full of warmth and strength.

In post-war Italy, a man and his son search Rome for the man's means of transportation, a bicycle that has been stolen. The bicycle is the only way that the man can get do his job in a time when any work is hard to come by. This premise leads to a story that is elegantly simple, but one that is replete with the struggles of Italy's working poor and the love of a son for his father. De Sica focuses on the man, Ricci, observing his haggard face through the triumph of finding the work that will allow his family to live again and the horror of its potential loss.

The story is told realistically and without obtrusive style. Rome bears the real life scars of war and its inhabitants bear weary faces. Against this canvas, De Sica builds a film that revels in the beautifully mundane. Shots are simple, and their compositions never draw attention to themselves. The sometimes lush black and white cinematography is lovely, capturing an unadorned beauty of people and places. At times, the film's aesthetic is breathtaking in its lack of ornamentation.

Lamberto Maggioranni is heartbreaking but never maudlin as Ricci. He is a real man with real struggles. Maggioranni communicates loss, fear, and hope in effortless glances. Ricci's son, played by Enzo Staiola, serves as helper and conscience for his father. He is world-worn yet innocent. In an accomplished performance, he lovingly witnesses the triumphs and failures of his father. Lianella Carell tempers her men with graceful worry and patience as Ricci's wife.

It has been written that "Bicycle Thieves" is one of the greatest films ever made. While that claim can be debated by students and lovers of film, there is no debate that De Sica has created a drama whose simplicity of narrative and straightforwardness of production is beautiful; whose themes, morals, and ironies are genuine and resonant; and whose bittersweet emotions are effortlessly devastating and authentic. The film may not be the most easily loved, but it is impossible to ignore its cinematic excellence. "Bicycle Thieves" is a masterpiece of honest and simple storytelling, and a sharply felt and fully realized piece of filmmaking.

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