An unemployed worker in postwar Rome finds a job putting up movie posters after his wife pawns the family sheets to get his bicycle out of hock. But right after he starts work the bike is stolen, and with his little boy in tow he travels across the city trying to recover it. This masterpiece is generally and correctly acknowledged as one of the key works of Italian neorealism, but French critic Andre Bazin also recognized it as one of the great communist films. (The fact that it received the 1949 Oscar for best foreign film suggests that it wasn’t perceived as such over here.) The dominance of auteurist criticism over the past three decades has made this extraordinary movie unfashionable because its power doesn’t derive from a single creative intelligence, but the work of screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, director Vittorio De Sica, the nonprofessional actors, and many others is so charged with a common purpose that there’s no point in even trying to separate their achievements. In Italian with subtitles.
NR • 1 hour 30 min • 1948