A look at neo-realism, and Vittorio De Sica’s ‘Bicycle Thieves,’ which turns 70 this year

Posted on July 26, 2018


Read the full article on Firstpost, here: https://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/bicycle-thieves-turns-70-a-look-at-neo-realism-through-the-prism-of-vittorio-de-sicas-classic-4823671.html

Bicycle Thieves, the Vittorio De Sica film that’s become a byword for neo-realism, turns 70 this year. The critic Megan Ratner (a contributing editor at Film Quarterly) wrote a terrific primer on the movement, explaining it from both a social and an aesthetic perspective – and it’s useful to revisit it before getting into Bicycle Thieves. The seeds of neo-realism were sown during the time Federico Fellini described thus: “For my generation, born in the 20s, movies were essentially American. American movies were more effective, more seductive. They really showed a paradise on earth…” This was hardly reflective of the lives of working-class Italians, and the single greatest influence on neo-realism was the anti-Fascism that marked the post-World War II period. As early as 1935, anti-Fascist journalist Leo Longanesi urged directors to “[step out of the studios and] go into the streets, into the barracks, into the train stations; only in this way can an Italian cinema be born.”

Ratner lists the following as some of the key elements of neo-realism: a docu-style emphasis on real lives, an entirely or largely non-professional cast, and a focus on the collective rather than the individual. Solidarity is important, along with an implicit criticism of the status quo. Plot and story come about organically from these episodes – like the stealing of the bicycle in Bicycle Thieves. Given that this is what the narrative motor is, you’d expect something Hollywood-style — say, a tensely crafted set piece, set to a background score that (a) makes you feel for the protagonist in poverty-stricken post-War Rome (he’s just gotten a job after years of waiting, and it’s a job that’s dependent on his having a bicycle), and (b) gets your pulse racing at the will-he-catch-the-thief? aspect of the chase.

Continued at the link above.

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