The most famous Italian film directors I can think of are Fellini, Antonioni, and Bertolucci. I feel Vittorio Di Sica, who made my favourite Italian film never really got the attention he deserves so I’m delighted that this month BFI are screening his 1948 masterpiece. I love the film because of the intelligent way it reflects both the harshness of life and also compassion and decency of everyday people. Cesare Zavattini who wrote the screen play was a Marxist who believed that with Mussolini gone, Italy could now make films that were shot on location and that featured realistic heroes who were trying to get back on their feet after the mess of World War 2. De Sica’s documentation of a downtrodden Rome couldn’t be more sad or beautiful.
A producer called David O Selznick told De Sica he would get the money to fund the making of the film on the condition that the lead character – a loving father who is unable to do his flyposter job when his bike is stolen – was played by Cary Grant. It’s a good thing De Sica rejected the offer. It is unlikely that moments such as Bruno being informed by his Dad that “You live and suffer” would hit home if they came from Grant’s lips rather than Lamberto Maggiorani’s.
Watching the desperate father and son struggle as they search for their lost bike is an experience that will stay with you. You won’t regret buying a ticket to see this classic film on the big screen.