Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: The Bicycle Thief

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, July 28, 1999

It’s hopeless. Every Sunday it rains.

Special features

Awards Listing5
Cast Information3

One of the most critically acclaimed movies of all time, “The Bicycle Thief” is listed as “influential” by many of the best directors today--at least according to the trailer provided on the DVD. Well worth seeing at least once.

RecommendationRent Soon!
DirectorVittorio de Sica
WritersLuigi Bartolini, Cesare Zavattini, Oreste Biancole, Suso Cecchi d’Amico, Vittorio de Sica, Adolfo Franci, Gerardo Guerrieri
Movie Rating8
Transfer Quality5
Overall Rating7
  • Academy Ratio

The transfer looks to be pretty good given the original. There are minor problems attributable to the age of the original: occasional skips, some UFO-like artifacts coming down the screen towards the middle. But mostly it’s a reasonably clean transfer.

The trailer goes way overboard boasting about the awards and influence of the movie. Watch the trailer after you watch the movie or you’ll be either disgusted or you’ll get your hopes way too high. This is a very good movie, but no movie is that good.

The background image for the main menu is a bright red brick wall with a bicycle shadow on it. It clashes heavily with the movie itself, which is beautifully photographed in black and white. Chapter selection, however, is quite well done. The chapters are shown four at a time and all you need do to switch to the next or previous four is hit the appropriate arrow (left or right) twice.

Besides the trailer, the only other extras are a filmography for director Vittorio de Sica, including directing, acting, and writing in one listing, and an award list, listing the various awards won by the movie. And there are quite a few! The trailer claims that the top directors of today, including recently-deceased Stanley Kubrick, list “The Bicycle Thief” as one of the most influential movies of all time. Robert Altman’s movie “The Player” uses “Bicycle Thief” as symbolic of great foreign films being better than great Hollywood films (symbolically, of course, Hollywood formula trumps intelligent writing, after Hollywood director kills the spokesperson for great foreign films).

The storyline is pretty simple. The movie takes place just after World War II, and jobs are extremely scarce in postwar Italy. Antonio Ricci has a very cute wife and a very cute son (as well as a baby), and has just landed a job with a local poster-posting company. He hangs posters for the cinema. The pay isn’t great (not in the million-a-month range required to eat out at restaurants), but it beats the hell out of nothing, which is what he was making. The only catch is that the job requires a bicycle. No bicycle, no job. He and his wife sell some household articles to get his bicycle out of hock, but the first day on the job his bicycle gets stolen, possibly by someone jealous of his having gotten the job in the first place. He has a Sunday to get the bicycle back before having to go back to work the next day. How much is he capable of to do so, and what happens to his relationship with his son as the search wears on? That’s the movie.

The film is beautifully shot in Rome, and the acting is wonderful—possibly because some of it wasn’t acting at all, but was very close to the hearts of the players. The movie is part of what is called the “neo-realist” movement: it depicted the problems of postwar life in the postwar era. It was filmed in 1947 or 1948 and released in 1948, while those problems still existed in that place, with those people. It is thus shot “on location” in both space and time, and the acting is very natural, very believable.

I strongly recommend this movie. The only reason I don’t recommend immediately purchasing it is that it is a very intense and emotional film. Whether or not you will want to watch it multiple times depends on how you react to that sort of movie.

The movie is viewable in English, or in Italian with English subtitles.

Recommendation: Rent Soon!

DirectorVittorio de Sica
WritersLuigi Bartolini, Cesare Zavattini, Oreste Biancole, Suso Cecchi d’Amico, Vittorio de Sica, Adolfo Franci, Gerardo Guerrieri
Spoken languagesEnglish, Italian
Special FeaturesAwards Listing, Cast Information, Trailer
More links

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