December 27, 2009

The Bicycle Thief

The Bicycle Thief

Italian theatrical poster
Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Produced by Giuseppe Amato
Written by Screenplay:
Vittorio De Sica
Cesare Zava ttini
Suso Cecchi D'Amico
Gerardo Guerrieri
Oreste Biancoli
Adolfo Franci
Luigi Bartolini
Starring Lamberto Maggiorani
Enzo Staiola
Lianella Carell
Vittorio Antonucci
Music by Alessandro Cicognini
Cinematography Carlo Montuori
Editing by Eraldo Da Roma
Distributed by Italy:
Ente Nazionale Industrie
United States:
Arthur Mayer
Joseph Burstyn
Release date(s) Italy:
November 24, 1948
United States:
December 12, 1949
Running time 93 minutes
Country Italy
Language Italian
Budget $133,000
The Bicycle Thi ef redirects here. For the band of the same name, see The Bicycle Thief (band).

Ladri di biciclette (released in Engli

sh as The Bicycle Thief or Bicycle Thieves) is a 1948 Italian neorealist film directed by Vittorio De Sica. It tells the story of a poor man searching the streets of Rome for his stolen bicycle, which he needs to be able to work. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Luigi Bartolini and was adapted for the screen by Cesare Zavattini. It stars Lamberto Maggiorani as the father and Enzo Staiola as the son.

The film is frequently on critics' and directors' lists of the best films ever made. It was given an Academy Honorary Award in 1950, and, just four years after its release, was deemed the greatest film of all time by the magazine Sight & Sound's poll of filmmakers and critics in 1952. The film placed sixth as the greatest ever made in the latest directors poll, conducted in 2002. Films considered the greatest ever


The film tells the story of Antonio Ricci, an unemployed worker who gets a job posting flyers in the depressed post-World War II economy of Italy. To keep the job, he must have a bicycle, so his wife Maria pawns her wedding sheets to get the money to redeem his bicycle from the pawnbroker. Early in the film, the bike is stolen, and Antonio, and his son Bruno, spend the remainder of the film searching for it. Antonio manages to locate the thief (who, it seems, had already sold the bicycle) and summons the police, but with no p

roof and with the thief’s neighbors willing to give him a false alibi, he abandons this cause.

At the end of the film Antonio, desperate to kee

p his job, attempts to steal a bicycle himself. He is caught and humiliated in front of Bruno; but the owner of the bicycle declines to press charges. Antonio and his family face a bleak future as the film ends, coupled with Antonio's realization that he is not morally superior to the thief.


Bicycle Thieves is the best known n

eo-realist film; a movement begun by Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City (1945), which attempted to give a new degree of realism to cinema. Following the precepts of the movement, De Sica shot only on location in Rome, and instead of professional actors used nonactors with no training in performance; for example, Lamberto Maggiorani, the leading actor, was a factory worker. The picture is also in the Vatican's Best Films List for portraying

humanistic valuesBosley Crowther, film critic for The New York Times, lauded the film and its message in his review. He wrote, "Again the

Italians have sent us a brilliant and devastating film in Vittorio De Sica's rueful drama of modern city life, The Bicycle Thief. Widely and fervently heralded by those who had seen it abroad (where it already has won several prizes at various film festivals), this heart-tearing picture of frustration, which came to the [World Theater] yesterday, bids fair to fulfill all the forecasts of its absolute triumph over here. For once more the ta

lented De Sica, who gave us the shattering Shoe

shine that desperately tragic demonstratio

n of juvenile corruption in post-war Rome, has laid hold upon and sharply imaged in simple and realistic terms a major—indeed, a fundamental and universal—dramatic theme. It is the isolation and loneliness of the little man in this complex so

cial world that is ironically blessed with institutions to comfort and protect mankind".

Lamberto Maggiorani as Antonio Ricci.

When the film was re-released in the late 1990s Bob Graham, staff film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, gave the drama a positive review: "The roles are played by non-actors, Lamberto Maggiorani as the father and Enzo Staiola as the solemn boy, who sometimes appears to be a miniature man. They bring a grave dignity to De Sica's unblinking view of post-war Italy. The wheel of life turns and grinds people down; the man who was riding high in the morning is brought low by nightfall. It is impossible to imagine this story in any other form than De Sica's. The new black-and-white print has an extraordinary range of gray tones that get darker as life closes in".


The plot of Tim Burton's Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), which features Pee-wee Herman trying to find his stolen bike, is loosely based on Bicycle Thieves.[] Swedish directors Lukas Moodysson and Roy Andersson hav

e listed the film as their favorite movie of all time.

In the 1992 film, "The Player" the "Bicycle Thief", as its called, becomes a minor player in the satiricial look at Hollywood.

Title controversy

The original Italian title is literally translated into English as Bicycle Thieves, but the film has usually been released in the USA as The Bicycle Thief. According to critic Philip French of The Observer, this alternative title is misleading, "because the desperate hero eventually becomes

himself a bicycle thief"

That title, however, does not reveal the plot detail that there is more than one bicycle thief, thus leaving the meaning of which thief the title refers to to the viewer's discretion. The most recent North American DVD release uses Bicycle Thieves.] When the film was re-released in the late 1990s Bob Graham, staff film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, agreed that the title The Bicycle Thief was superior, stating, "Purists have criticized the English title of the film as a poor translation of the Italian ladri, which is plural. What blindness! The Bicycle Thief is one of those wonderful titles whose power does not sink in until the film is over".


  • Locarno International Film Festival, Switzerland: Special Prize of the Jury, Vittorio De Sica; 1949.
  • National Board of Review: NBR Award, Best Director, Vittorio De Sica; Best Film (Any Language), Italy; 1949.
  • New York Film Critics Circle Awards: NYFCC Award, Best Foreign Language Film, Italy; 1949.

  • Academy Awards: Honorary Award, Italy. Voted by the Academy Board of Governors as the most outstanding foreign language film released in the United States during 1949; 1950.
  • British Academy of Film and Television Arts: BAFTA Film Award, Best Film from any Source; 1950.
  • Bodil Awards, Copenhagen, Denmark: Bodil, Best European Film (Bedste europæiske film), Vittorio De Sica; 1950.
  • Golden Globes: Golden Globe, Best Foreign Film, Italy; 1950.
  • Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain: CEC Award, Best Foreign Film (Mejor PelĂ­cula Extranjera), Italy; 1951.
  • Kinema Junpo Awards, Tokyo, Japan: Kinema Junpo Award, Best Foreign Language Film, Vittorio De Sica; 1951.
  • Best Cinematography (Migliore Fotografia), Carlo Montuori.
  • Best Director (Migliore Regia), Vittorio De Sica.
  • Best Film (Miglior Film a Soggetto).
  • Best Score (Miglior Commento Musicale), Alessandro Cicognini.
  • Best Screenplay (Migliore Sceneggiatura), Cesare Zavattini, Vittorio De Sica, Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Oreste Biancoli, Adolfo Franci, and Gerardo Guerrieri.
  • Best Story (Miglior Soggetto), Cesare Zavattini.
  • Academy Awards: Oscar, Best Writing, Screenplay, Cesare Zavattini; 1950.


  • Lamberto Maggiorani as Antonio Ricci
  • Enzo Staiola as Bruno Ricci, Antonio's son
  • Lianella Carell as Maria Ricci, Antonio's wife
  • Gino Saltamerenda as Baiocco
  • Vittorio Antonucci as Bicycle thief
  • Giulio Chiari as Beggar

No comments:

Post a Comment