Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Bicycle Thief - Movie Review

Classic movie. How does one define that. To me its the kind of a movie that does not necessarily rely on technical wizardry, musical and locational brilliance and still tells the story in such a manner that you do not wish to miss even a wee bit of it. I could not tear myself away from the screen for the smallest moment and savoured each and every scene as if it were a favorite dish that I hid for myself. So rich and so well told is bicycle thief.

Directed by Vittorio Di Seca, the 1948 movie is an adaptation of a novel by Luigi Bartolini. The pace is rapid and far more interesting than a Mission Impossible which stuns you with scenes and that's something I wish certain movie makers realised. In the first scene itself the protagonist Antonio Ricci is offered a job in post War Italy when jobs are scarce and people are pawning away their belongings to feed their families. Antonio gets a rare job, of pasting posters on the city walls and he is thrilled to bits, but the condition is that he must have a bicycle. Now Antonio has pawned his bicycle earlier so he somehow lies his way through and gets the job. His wife pawns the sheets and mattresses at home and they get the bicycle back, which is stolen on the first day itself. Antonio and his seven year old son who knows the bicycle even better than Antonio go searching for the bicycle in all the markets for stolen goods. During that period the father and son go through all that is required of anyone in such adversity - until we come to the moment of reckoning. In a world full of bicycles, is one less bicycle better off than searching for a bicycle that is lost for all purposes? The choices that the father makes, the all too early growing up of his son as he faces up to the reality of life, the unfairness of life and mostly the drama of a human life are revealed in a measured, exacting manner by Vittorio Di Seca. It is one of those movies in which you can never forget the look in the actors eyes, where you can always feel the sadness, hope, weakness, strength and the loss of an illusion. Beautiful stuff that will remain forever.

If one has to write scripts and stories they had better be like this. You don't need big stars to make movies like this - both the father and son were first time actors. Every moment, every expression, every change in mood is to be savored. Super stuff.

I wonder if anyone in the Hindi film industry copied it in the 60s (when it could have worked). But I found a faint similarity in 'The Better Life' which was the story of an immigrant Mexican and his son and their search for a truck he brought for work.

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