Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Ladri di biciclette" (1948)

"Bicycle Thieves" (Italy, B&W, 1948, dir. Vittorio De Sica)

Desperately needing a bike defines one excruciatingly-thin Giacomettic walking-man, the visual icon of post-WW2 European existentialism.

I 1st saw a English-dubbed clip from "Bicycle Thieves" on the B&W -TV "Ed Sullivan Show" about a desperate Roman guy just after WW2 who gets a rare chance at a job - putting up film posters on walls all over Rome, but he must have a bicycle to do it.

Suddenly 2 brothers steal his wobbly bike & he pursues them on foot across Rome along with his little son (who pauses to pee into an outdoor wall-urinal & suddenly spins around to show us his little wobbly penis.) Things have gotten so bad for their family that the wife has had to sell their bed-sheets. I quickly saw that things were worse for them than us in war-winning West Lynn MA: my Glasgow-born dad had a secure job in the Lynn MA GE River Works plant as a naval-gear parts-inspector; my mom wasn't reduced to selling her bed-sheets (or herself.) As for me: my first bike, an American-made second-hand Colson, was stolen in Lynn, but was retrieved by the Lynn police. My second, a new English Dunelt, lasted until it was stolen after I'd moved to Beacon Hill, Boston, after graduating Boston College.

I've never successfully learned to drive a car, so the desperation & anguish over an absolutely necessary bike that filled "Bicycle Thieves" was & is still intertwined with mine at age 68, over fifty years later.

Others still feel as acutely about the film, too. In a recent interview, Woody Allen called it "The greatest film ever made." (Its actors were all non-professionals; none ever worked in any other films again after it, even though the lead actor looked like a truly-starved Humphrey Bogart in "Treasure of the Sierra Madre".)

[Q] Does the desperate guy ever get his bike back?

[A] No, not even after confronting the thief in a brothel, who's since sold it. An attempt to steal a replacement bike fails and the desperate guy's arrested, but out of pity, the owner refuses to charge him with the crime. He & his small son walk away, hand-in-hand, finally defeated.

An earlier draft of this ongoing recollection was 1st-written, at her request, for Ann Wainwright's TypePad cakecakecake blog that she edits in Leven nr Beverley, Humberside, England GB. In the USA, it also appears in The [S.F.] Bay Citizen Citizen Blog section.

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