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500 Five Star: Bicycle Thieves (1948)

January 28, 2012


The above trailer is essentially a three minute recital of all the praise heaped the way of Bicycle Thieves.  We’re not talking lowly critics here either.  The likes of Marlon Brando, Stanley Kubrick, and Peter Fonda have all had their say, and (if you haven’t watched it yourself), then trust me: we’re talking serious, intense accolades.  You might think this takes the pressure off me, because whatever I have to say really bears no weight when considered alongside these comments.  However, I’m looking at it quite differently, because frankly, I’m not sure I adored Bicycle Thieves quite as much as I should have…and now I need a damn good reason for that.

The problem is, I don’t really have one.  I liked Bicycle Thieves a lot, finding it to be a sentimental tale, about pride, dignity, family, poverty and the destruction of values.  The actual plotline is slight, yet this doesn’t affect the emotional impact of the film; the ending is genuinely heartbreaking.  As a history graduate with a particular interest in European society in the twentieth century, I loved the fascinating reflection of life in Rome post-World War 2, and it made me interested to seek out more films of the Italian neo-realist movement.  All of these things point to an excellent film, which Bicycle Thieves definitely is.  Yet that doesn’t feel enough.  I feel like I should be raving about it, writing thousands of words about why it’s the greatest film in history, but I just don’t have that urge surging through me.  Unless I’m researching 1940’s Italy for a postgrad assignment in the future, there’s a good chance I’ll never watch it again, and the thought of that doesn’t devastate me.  I’m glad I’ve seen it, I thought it was an excellent piece of filmmaking, and I think it’s worthy of anyone’s time.  It just didn’t blow my mind.  Sorry, Marlon Brando.



My head says it’s a bonafide classic.  My heart isn’t all that bothered.  I’ll suppose I’ll just go with my head, and agree with Empire…


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