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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Working with De Sica, a collection of new interviews with screenwriter Suso Cecchi D'Amico, actor Enzo Staiola (Bruno), and film scholar Callisto Cosulich
  • Life as It Is, a new program on the history of Italian neorealism in cinema, with scholar Mark Shiel
  • Documentary on screenwriter and longtime Vittorio De Sica collaborator Cesare Zavattini, directed by Carlo Lizzani

Bicycle Thieves


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Gino Saltamerenda, Vittorio Antonucci, Giulio Chiari
1948 | 89 Minutes | Licensor: Image Entertainment

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #374
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: February 13, 2007
Review Date: May 9, 2016

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SYNOPSIS

Hailed around the world as one of the greatest movies ever made, Vittorio De Sica's Academy Award-winning Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette) defined an era in cinema. In postwar, poverty-stricken Rome, a man, hoping to support his desperate family with a new job, loses his bicycle, his main means of transportation for work. With his wide-eyed young son in tow, he sets off to track down the thief. Simple in construction and dazzlingly rich in human insight, Bicycle Thieves embodied all the greatest strengths of the neorealist film movement in Italy: emotional clarity, social righteousness, and brutal honesty.

Forum members rate this film 9.2/10

 

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PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents Vittorio De Sicaís seminal neorealist masterpiece, Bicycle Thieves to DVD, presenting the film in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on the first dual-layer disc of this two-disc set. Because of the ratio the image has of course not been enhanced for widescreen televisions. Annoyingly, the image has been window-boxed.

Short of that window-boxing problem (a process Criterion unfortunately used for a number of their 4:3 ratio films on DVD from 2006 until maybe around 2012) the presentation isnít too bad. The digital encode itself is rather solid, delivering sharp details and decent textures. Compression is nicely managed and the film does retain a fairly filmic look, at least about as well as one can expect for DVD. Contrast is okay, though I found blacks could be a little overbearing in places, and some details can get crushed out in the shadows. Otherwise, though, the digital transfer is strong.

The source materials on the other hand are a bit rough. Damage is fairly heavy throughout the film littered with tram lines, scratches, and dirt. The film also has a number of missing frames throughout (this is also present on other editions of the film) and the image does jitter and pulse in places as well.

The issues werenít too surprising at the time, though newer editions have fixed a number of the problems since. At the very least, though, the transfer itself is nice, and it doesnít present any problems that would further exasperate any problems.

6/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The 1.0 Dolby Digital mono track is a bit of a mess. Itís incredibly edgy and distorted with tinny dialogue and music. The score is especially harsh here, while damage is also very evident, complete with pops, drops, and cracks. There is also a very audible background hiss to the track. Disappointing.

A bit better, but not ideal, is the English dub for the film, also presented here in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. Audio quality is actually better, even if dialogue can be a bit flat and edgy. But the dub isnít half bad when you get down to it, with lip movements matching dialogue most of the time, and sounding organic to the film, not detached. Sadly, though, it probably sounds better than the Italian track.

4/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The two-disc set features a few supplements. The first disc is devoted to the film (with the optional English dub) while the second dual-layer disc presents the remaining features.

Working with De Sica, a 23-minute collection of interviews with screenwriter Suso Cecchi díAmico, actor Enzo Staiola (who plays the boy, Bruno, in the film), and film scholar Callisto Cosulich, opens the supplements.. Cosulich and díAmico have most of the screen time, going over De Sicaís acting career and then his directorial work. We get some back story to the development of the film, which was adapted very loosely from a novel of the same name. Stailoa then shares how he was eventually cast in the part and his career after the film, while also expressing his disappointment in how his co-star, Lamberto Maggiorani, never got the acting career he desired. In the end itís a fairly general talking heads making-of, but a decent one none-the-less.

Criterion then provides a bit of a crash course on the Italian Neorealist movement with Life as It Is, a 40-minute segment hosted by scholar Mark Shiel. Shiel gives a brief overview of the Italian film industry during the war (where filmmakers basically churned out films to serve Mussoliniís fascist needs) and how Neorealist films grew out of that. He talks about a few of the key films in the movement but, unsurprisingly, focuses on most of his time on Bicycle Thieves. He also tries to put aside this idea that Neorealist films were sort of shot off-the-cuff, low budget, and only used real settings, to the point where if they needed rain they would wait for rain. He would explain this wasnít necessarily the case, or even a rule, and was more an idea born out of how Rome Open City was shot, more out of necessity. Bicycle Thieves was actually a big budget production with a full crew, probably one of the more expensive films at the time, and De Sica manufactured rain if he needed it, he didnít wait for it to actually rain.

Shiel also covers the controversies that surround the films (most were upset about how they seemed to concentrate on the more miserable aspects of Italian life) and how this would lead to a change in the film industry. Itís a decent primer for those unfamiliar with the movement and the films and has been nicely put together by Spiel.

The disc then closes with a documentary on screenwriter Cesare Zavattini. The 55-minute piece is a well done documentary, though fairly standard in the end. It goes over his life and career with special focus on the films Bicycle Thieves and Umberto D.. It also features footage shot of him and gets interviews with those that worked with him or knew him.

Criterion then includes a thick 75-page book. It features an essay on the film by Godfrey Cheshire, followed by a couple of other essays: mentioned in the other features, we get an essay by Cesare Zavattini on how the movies can capture whatís really happening, and then we get a lengthy essay by Andre Bazin, defending Neorealism against the critics who were saying the movement was over. After this is a collection of ďrememberancesĒ on the film by De Sica, Lianella Carrell (recalling how she was cast as Maria), assistant director Luisa Alessandri, Sergio Leone (who, as he states, had a small part and worked as a ďgoferĒ), Manuel De Sica, and then Maria Mercader. Itís a nicely put together booklet, and a real strong addition to the set.

In the end, despite the two-discs, itís not a jam-packed edition, but it does manage to offer some real value and works as a great starting point for those new to Italian Neorealism.

7/10

CLOSING

Itís a sharp looking edition. The transfer looks pretty good (though a new 4K restoration presented on a newer Blu-ray edition clearly outshines it) and the supplements, particularly the book, add some real value to it. Very high recommendation.


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