Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Street life: Bicycle Thieves

Cinema senza tempo - Timeless Cinema

Vittorio De Sica's remarkable 1948 drama of desperation and survival in Italy's post-war depression earned a special Oscar for it's affecting power. Shot in the streets and alleys of Rome, De Sica used a real-life environment and cast non-professional actors to frane this moving drama.

Impoverished Antonio's new job hanging cinema posters (its a Rita Hayworth film) is at risk when a street thief steals his bicycle. Too poor to buy another, he and his son Bruno take to the streets in an impossible task to find the bike.

This landmark film defined the Italian Neo-realist approach with its brutal portrayal of post-war life, its truthful acting, its compassion and poetic rhythm. De Sica uses the wandering pair to witness the lives of everyday folk while ultimately depicting a story of love and hope between father and son.

That is the bare bones of the film. What is fascinating is how De Sica fleshes it out. The wife takes the sheets off the beds to pawn them so they can redeem his bicycle which had been pawned already. It is a very telling moment when the bundle of sheets is put at the top of a huge mountain of similar bundles - everyone has pawned their sheets!

THE BICYCLE THIEVES like Rossellini's ROME OPEN CITY is a key work of the Italian Neo-Realism and like Bergman's THE SEVENTH SEAL, Fellini's LA STRADA or Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI one of those key early world cinema films that became so popular in the '50s.

I have done several posts on De Sica here before, both as director and actor. He is someone I enjoy a lot: that flamboyant style of acting, enjoying himself in front of the camera. Not only was he a matinee idol in the 1930s but a great character actor later, as in Ophuls' MADAME DE... or Rossellini's IL GENERALE DELLA ROVERE,. His Loren and Mastroianni films are favourites and of course he acted with them frequently too in those 50s films like TOO BAD SHE'S BAD. See Italian, De Sica labels for more. 

What is amazing here is the rapport between father (Lamberto Maggionani) and son (Enzo Staiola) - De Sica was able to get some great performances from children, as in SHOESHINE. The ending here could be depressing, but when the son puts his hand in his father's and they walk away into the crowd it is such a perfect moment - after the son's shame at seeing his father reduced to stealing another bicycle and getting caught. 

The Arrow Films dvd had a great documentary too on De Sica: Cinema Senza Tempo - on his timeless cinema with Vittorio obviously enjoying himself hosting a documentary on himself with regular writer Cesare Zavattini, showing us clips from lots of his acting and directing.

One amusing scene has a rather distant Sophia Loren smoking a cigarette as Vittorio is interviewed at an airport, after the sucess of TWO WOMEN, when he is asked about a proposed film with Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando - which Sophia had not heard about before! Her surprised expression is delightful! We also get to see him at work on one of his flops - that supposedly dreadful WOMAN TIMES SEVEN in '67 with Shirley McLaine ... much as I like Vittorio I would never want to see that ...

Coming up: UMBERTO D, THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINI'S and we will get around to re-seeing Vittorio's entertainments YESTERDAY TODAY & TOMORROW and  MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE. I recently reviewed his  1962's THE CONDEMNED OF ALTONA, as well as GOLD OF NAPLES, '54 and '62's BOCCACCIO 70, and  have now got his 1961 THE LAST JUDGEMENT (IL GUIDIZIO UNIVERSALE) which I do not know at all. Review in due course...

No comments:

Post a Comment