There is an antidote to the abominable sewage flowing out of today's Hollywood. In fact there is more than one antidote. There are many if we care to look, films which edify as well as entertain, films which extol life rather than denigrate it, films made by artists rather than cash-register jockeys. It will be this writer's pleasure from time to time to remind readers of these hidden treasures. If the motion picture is destined, for better or for worse, to be a part of our cultural heritage then I will do my bit to remind the world of films which enrich our culture and which offer not only diversion, but a sense of beauty.
THE BICYCLE THIEF(1948) from Italy is a sad, truthful, entertaining, enriching and beautiful film. The best stories are the simple ones. This lovely movie told a story that could hardly be simpler: a poor man at last finds meagre employment hanging posters around the city of Rome. His bicycle is essential to his continued employment for he uses it as his only means of transporting himself and his supply of posters. But his precious bicycle is stolen and he and his young son spend the rest of the film looking for it. From such a simple story line there emerges one of the most compelling human dramas I have ever seen on a screen. Millions of words have been written about this movie but no words can convey the depths of emotion inherent in it. One has to see it. Every father should see it. Every downtrodden, or unemployed, or heart-broken father should see it. Every family should see it together.
Thanks to an enterprising theatre owner who occasionally showed classic films I was able to watch it on a big screen, the way its makers intended it to be seen. Such opportunities, alas, are fast disappearing. If ever it is shown in a theatre go see it. But since that is becoming more unlikely with each passing digital day what is left to us is to watch it on video. A story like this needs to have all our attention; daily home distractions will destroy the carefully built up atmosphere and tension created by director Vittorio De Sica. Find a quiet evening at home, keep the lights down as low as possible, turn off the cell phones and give all your attention to this exquisite little masterpiece of pure cinema. Put aside 90 minutes of undistracted time and witness one of the finest things ever done for the screen. You will never regret those minutes.
Don't let the fact that poseurs and fakes like Martin Scorcese or Bernardo Bertolucci, who promote the film, keep you away from it. THE BICYCLE THIEF is an example of what film making is supposed to be. No one who sees it can walk away from it unmoved. No one will fail to see a little of themselves in the characters on the screen. Uplift your spirits and yourself and witness this remarkable work.
There has never been a movie that depicted so eloquently the love between father and son. It is doubtful there ever will be again.