Bicycle Thieves is the ultimate feel-bad movie. A poor day laborer living in the ghettos of post-war Italy competes against his impoverished neighbors for scant manual labor jobs. He secures a job posting advertisements in Rome but the job requires a bicycle which he has but recently pawned. After explaining the predicament to his wife she turns around and pawns her bedsheets which brings in just enough to get his bike out of hock. It’s off to the races now, nothing but blue skies ahead for this intrepid family.
That was the last good thing I remember happening to this family. As you might’ve guessed by the title, Rome is full of bicycle thieves who’ll strip your ride and sell it for parts before you realize it’s gone. It’s a brilliant grift too because once you’re on the bike, you’re… ya know… much faster than the guy chasing you to get it back! That’s exactly what happens to our hero Antonio who spends the rest of the movie scouring the city for his bike. It’s no use, neither he nor his son can recover their prized possession before the film ends. It’s heartbreaking.
What a wonderful movie! Sometimes we need a little heartbreak to make us appreciate what we have and expand our empathy to the suffering of others! Isn’t that neat? Imagine caring that your neighbor was starving. Can you do that? Try really hard. You’re almost there. No? Still no feelings? Well if you or someone you love is struggling with empathy I prescribe a single dose of Bicycle Thieves to be taken audio-visually until empathy improves.
Bicycle Thieves is a gorgeous film and thanks to the Criterion Collection we could watch it in the comfort of our own home away from the filthy common rabble at the local multiplex. Please watch Bicycle Thieves in the highest available quality. Criterion’s presentation of restored films is by far the cleanest of the boutique blu-ray distributors so if you can’t see Bicycle Thieves in a theater please do yourself a favor and subscribe to the Criterion Channel or pick up a blu-ray at Barnes and Noble or another brick and mortar video store.
I don’t feel qualified to convey all the reasons why Bicycle Thieves is a cinematic masterpiece but please, watch it, and feel something. You’ll be a better person for it.