THIS SCREENING WILL BE PRECEDED BY A BRIEF INTRODUCTION FROM DR. SILVANA SERRA AN EXPERT IN EUROPEAN CINEMA, FROM THE ITALIAN DANTE ALIGHIERI CULTURAL SOCIETY OF MANCHESTER .For more info see https://dantemanchester.org.uk
There was a time when any self-respecting film-goer, or even television-watcher, would know and have seen Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thieves. Now, when many college kids think of Pulp Fiction as almost prehistoric, that's no longer the case.
Yet it's hard to imagine what the history of cinema would look like without Bicycle Thieves. Released in 1948, and immediately heralded as the key document of Italian neo-realism, more so even than Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City (1945), it's the missing link between Chaplin's The Tramp and the Dardennes brothers' The Child.Generations of filmmakers, from Satyajit Ray in India, Mohsin Makhmalbaf in Iran and Charles Burnett in America, have been captivated and inspired by this enduring testament to the poetry and pathos of working-class life, its passionate depiction of human aspiration in darkened times.
Written by Cesare Zavattini and loosely based on a novel by Luigi Bartolini, the film is set in the aftermath of the Second World War, when huge swathes of Rome had been reduced to rubble, and much of its demoralised population was steeped in poverty.
One of them is Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani), a proud husband and father, whose life takes a turn for the better when he is offered a job pasting film posters on the city's walls. Joy turns to panic: he lacks a bicycle. But, helped by his wife, who pawns their bed linen, he manages to buy one, only to have it stolen within hours.
The film, formerly about the search for employment, now becomes a search for the bicycle and the person who stole it. It's a quest whose dramatic simplicity takes the form of a modern-day Greek tragedy. Maggoriani, and the young Enzo Staiola, who plays his son as they wander the city, were non-professionals, and their faces have a naked expressivity that, once seen, can never be forgotten.
De Sica, like his fellow neo-realists, regarded the pomp and dazzle of pre-war Italian cinema as a form of fascism. Bicycle Thieves abandons the studio for the grime and elegance of the city's flea markets, rain-sodden piazzas, football stadia. Through its lanes and under aching skies Antonio treks: desperate, relentless, heroic.
He is a man who has done little wrong in his life. He is a man, decent and true, who wishes only to hold his head up high and to protect the people he loves. He is a working man who has been failed by an economic system that exploited him while pretending to protect him. He is, in 2008 as much as in 1948, a mirror to many of those people watching him.
Sukhdev Sandhu, The Telegraph (2008)