ladri di biciclette

At the moment, my brother is in Delhi.

And every time my dear elder brother (he paid me to say that, honest) comes home to Delhi, he brings with him a collection of some the most famous, influential and award winning movies of all time.

Last to last summer, it was through his collection that I discovered some great films like Casino Royale, Casablanca, The Butterfly Effect, the Bourne trilogy and Waking Life among others. There were a few Docu-films too like the Inconvenient Truth, some of Noam Chomsky's and some Richard Dawkin's; which save for Al Gore's, I didn't have either the inclination nor the patience to see. At that time, I was also introduced to Boston Legal - a series that my brother raved about.

Last time he came, which was this summer, he brought a few more classics like The Dead Poet's Society, Finding Neverland, Life is Beautiful (a favourite) and Edward Scissorhands.

So this time in keeping with the tradition, his laptop was teeming with a host of movies. I looked through the list. Dasvidaniya, The silence of the lambs, Braveheart, Ladri di Biciclette, Motorcycle Diaries etc etc. His list also included Deshdrohi which started me : I didn't expect to find that there. I quizzed him on this recent development.
'Why?' I asked pointing at the icon with a carefully chosen deranged expression on my face. This one movie, half an hour of which I had seen on cable was something that haunted my dreams.
'What? O that. It's about Raj Thackeray and all the controversy about the Non-Marathas.'
'So why do you have it?'
'Ob. I wanted to see it'
'Did you, then?' I asked, hoping against hope.
'Yesterday afternoon, yes'.
I was crushed.
' was it?'
'Good. Alright, actually'
'What?!' What was left of my hilarity had turned to incredulity.'Why??'
'You see its not meant for city people like us. You may poke fun at it, but it's essentially meant to mobilise people in Bihar and UP. having that in mind, I thought it was okay.'
I still couldn't believe him. People from UP and Bihar would *obviously* not be moved to do anything after watching something as inane as Deshdrohi. Except for maybe going and lynching the film's producer and director for caricaturing them in the form of Kamal(pronounced "Kamaaal") Khan.

I am digressing, I must get on. Well anyway, yesterday I saw a movie called Ladri di Biciclette (translated to English as the Bicycle Thieves). According to its Wikipedia article, it's an Italian neorealist film directed by Vittorio de Sica, made in 1948. When you ask me if the movie was any good, need I say more than that this was the movie which inspired Satyajit Ray to be a filmmaker; and that its No.3 on the list of films considered the greatest of all time (after Battleship Potemkin and Gold Rush).

I'm not itching to write a review because it's one of those things, which when one tries to put into words they can only fail, because like music or a painting it has to be experienced... but I've talked myself into it.

[Spoiler Warning]:If you've already seen the movie don't hesitate to continue. If you haven't, you still may, for I cannot even begin to describe the portrayal of different emotions involved in the movie.

The Bicycle Thief is a story of Antonio Ricci and his family: his wife Maria and his son Bruno. Living in an era of the Great Depression in Italy, he like hundreds of other unskilled workers of his time, is unemployed. By a draw of lots, his name is chosen for the job of sticking posters around the city. But to take the job, he must have a bicycle - he accepts because jobs were scarce and hard to come by. Yet, he goes back home saddened, for he feels he must forfeit that opportunity as he doesn't have a bicycle nor the money to buy one. His wife comes to his aid and gets him the money by pawning some bedclothes at a pawn shop. Antonio thus is able to report to work and feels he has regained his dignity; that of a man of the working class.

On his first day of sticking posters his bicycle is stolen and that too in front of his very eyes. He chases after the thief but he proves to be too fast for him and escapes. Trounced and hopeless, he wanders around town seeking help from the police and his friends but he goes home a defeated man.
The rest of the movie involves him and his son searching for the missing article. But the marrow of the movie is Bruno(played by Enzo Staiola) - his honesty is touching, his naïvety is endearing and his acting is something that commands, and is worthy of your undivided attention. The way he tries to behave like his role model - his dad, his gait, the way he styles his hair or the way he struggles with the fork and knife (I still do) when his father takes him to a restaurant as a treat, ultimately resorting to use his hands.
But Antonio Ricci (played by Lamberto Maggiorani- a real life factory worker) creates magic with his acting too. This becomes apparent in the last scene in which he is torn between stealing a bicycle himself; when he all his efforts to get back his own bicycle fail. Desperate for his livelihood, and after many moments of pacing back and forth, he goes for it. He gives Bruno money to catch the tram and tells him to wait at some place and that he would meet him there. Antonio steals a parked bicycle but he is chased, finally cornered and caught. The crowd which gathers around him start beating and abusing him.

The Bicycle Thieves.

Bruno having missed his tram sees this and runs to "save" his dad. The owner sees Bruno and lets Antonio go, deciding not to press charges.'Some examples you set for your son' he says, departing.
The movie comes to a close now, with Antonio and his son both breaking down, holding hands. Antonio realizes that he is not morally superior to the thief and Bruno learns that his Dad is not perfect.

I feel like a moron now that I've given most of the story away, but still, that must not stop absolutely anyone from seeing this film. It's amazing and it's one in a million. I have the movie (with English subtitles) if anyone needs it, I'd be happy to share this gem.


Anirudh Garg said...

get it on monday

its an italian movie??or jst da name is italian?

Ankur Banerjee said...

You should see The Motorcycle Diaries too.

Manmeet Singh said...

You should've seen An Inconvenient Truth in case you missed it.

I am said...

i have seen the movie..and truly, it is a magnificent movie.
i liked the part when you said:"...because like music or a painting it has to be experienced... "
that too, is absolutely true. i think art, in any form can only be felt and experienced .

P.S. i think getting movies is a very bada-bhai-thing.. my brother also gets at least a dozen of unheard-long lost movies.!
they somehow are either extremely resourceful or completely unemployed!

Great post! :)

Anirudh Garg said...


now ot think of it
even my elder brother gets tons of gr8 movies for me
hmmm..maybe its universal...

Pulzkit said...

Silence of the lambs is awesome too. "I ate his liver with a nice chianti" Watch it with subtitles.

Quicksilver said...

Anirudh -

remind me on the day before.

Ankur -

next on my list along with braveheart.

Manmeet -

I did but even with its message (which I agree is awesome) it's a leetle boring.

I am -

Thank you for being my most non-critical reader.
Which movies did your bro get?

Pulkit -

That mate, is #21 on AFI's list of top movie quotes.

Pulzkit said...

well, i know, coz that list is posted on my blog. one of the first few posts, actually. That is where i first heard about it.