Stream On: More ‘Bicycle Thieves.’ The end of innocence?

By on August 17, 2023

 Last time we looked at Paul Reuben’s innocent, Pee-wee Herman, and his stolen bicycle. Innocence was one of the biggest casualties of World War II, and its loss was felt particularly in Rome, the home of Roman Catholicism. Locally, Duce Benito Mussolini’s government ended badly and Mussolini was summarily executed in the street by communists. Italy, and the world, was back to square one.


/Amazon /Streaming /🍅99% 🍿94% /Trailer /1949 /NR

“You live and you suffer.” (Antonio Ricci)

In postwar Rome, unemployed Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani—like everyone in the cast, he wasn’t an actor) is offered work pasting advertising bills. The job requires Antonio to own a bicycle, which he promises he does, although it’s in a pawn shop. So his wife, Maria, steps up, pawning her dowry bedsheets to redeem his bicycle.

On Antonio’s first day of the job, while he is on a ladder posting a film poster (of Rita Hayworth, in a nod to Hollywood, maybe a little poke), the bicycle is grabbed. After Antonio loses the thief, he reports it to the police, who are uninterested.

Throughout the movie Antonio is accompanied by his son Bruno, a solemn little boy who looks and acts like a small adult. Director Vittorio De Sica cast eight-year-old Enzo Staiola when he noticed the boy watching the film’s production on a street while helping his father sell flowers. De Sica wrote, “The man in the street, particularly if he is directed by someone who is himself an actor, is raw material that can be molded at will … It is difficult—perhaps impossible—for a fully trained actor to forget his profession. It is far easier to teach it, to hand on just the little that is needed, just what will suffice for the purpose at hand.” It’s this that gives Bicycle Thieves its power: Maggiorani, as Antonio, was anxious in front of the cameras, at the center of everything, he felt; and his natural anxiety perfectly fits his role. In life, what we know is what we see. The objective “vox dei” viewpoint of a lot of fiction, where the reader or viewer is omniscient, seeing into the hearts of the actors, is recognized reflexively as a tale told by a story-teller; but what we see in Bicycle Thieves is life playing out: It’s not a movie; these are people, people who watch movies, who watch Rita Hayworth. After the apocalypse of war, they clutch at the innocence of Hollywood movies after their own government has broken their hearts.

Antonio and Bruno chase after their own innocence all day long, Sunday, in the Holy city. Antonio had upheld his end of the basic social contract, protecting his mate and their family from hunger and want, and up jumped the devil—or at least, a fallen man, who steals Antonio future.

Bruno seems like Antonio’s conscience, or perhaps a guardian angel. It’s he who suggests they go to the police when the bike is stolen, and subsequently sees his father indulge in his worst qualities—selfishness, obliviousness, carelessness—as the prospect of finding the bicycle becomes increasingly unlikely, and Bruno’s solemnity appears judgmental—to us.

The original title of Bicycle Thieves is Ladri di biciclette (“thieves of bicycles”), but after Bosley Crowther’s initial, shallow, review in the New York Times, it became known as “The Bicycle Thief,” one of several of Crowther’s vital misunderstandings. The hereditary nature of the loss of innocence that is revealed in the story’s conclusion was teased in the proper title of the film. There is more than one thief, and more than one bicycle.

In 1952 Bicycle Thieves was worthy to be deemed the greatest film of all time by the British film magazine Sight & Sound’s poll of filmmakers and critics; fifty years later another poll organized by the same magazine ranked it sixth among the greatest-ever films. In the 2012 version of the list Bicycle Thieves still ranked 33rd among critics and 10th among directors.

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

Click here for more Stream On: What to watch on TV columns by Pete Hummers. Columns are archived and updated when necessary on Substack.



Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


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