Friday, August 14, 2015

The Bicycle Thieves

As part of Montreal's annual Italian Week, I saw The Bicycle Thieves last night at Cinema du Parc. It's one of those films that I've known about and heard about and read about but never actually seen myself (I vaguely remember renting it once a long time ago but I never watched for some reason).

I can certainly see why the film is considered one of the best films ever made. Wow. So much going on in this rather straightforward tale of a family man on the hunt through the streets of Rome for his stolen bicycle. Set in the immediate afterman of post-WWII Italy, the film is a master of understatement: the class issues are front and centre, of course, but the civil unrest and the images of authority and power and how they influence(d) the lives of ordinary Italians stand in the background and make up some of the most interesting things about the film.

I've spent time in Italy and only just returned, in fact, from a work trip there a few weeks ago and, naturally, much has changed. Yet much remains the same: Italians are not poor or living on the edge, but there is certainly poverty there (though it often remains relegated to immigrant communities). Of course, the church doesn't have nearly as much power as they did 70 years ago, but they are still front and centre in Italian society.

I'm certainly no expert on Italy or the Church or immigration to Europe, but these thoughts were ever present as I watched this seemingly simple tale, moved by the pain of an honest man sincerely trying to do his best for his family. (Incidentally, it's shocking how parenthood has changed! He lets his 7 year old son take the street car all alone and the kid actually has a job working in a gas station!)

There is little tenderness in the film, particularly between the father and the son, though in the final scene, there is a moment when all the pain and uncertainty comes together and the boy reaches for his father's hand. Rarely have I been so moved by such a common everyday gesture. The ambiguity with which the film ends is not totally unexpected or, rather, we know what the ambiguity means.

The film is one of the kick-off events for Montreal's Italian week with events through the 16th of August including other film, fashion shows, food, music concerts and more.

No comments:

Post a Comment