The Neorealism: We Were Not Just Bicycle Thieves (2013)

Director:  Gianni Bozzacchi
Plot:  This short film tells the story of the most important cinema trend that Italy has ever produced - neorealism.  Born after the Second World War, this veritable cultural revolution rapidly became a boundless source of inspiration for movie-makers throughout the entire world.

Genre:  Documentary
Awards:  -
Runtime:  75min
Rating:  PG

The film will be screened at the Italian Film Festival 2014 on Sunday 6 April, 7pm at The Cathay.  Click here to find out more.

Windows are continually opened and closed in this documentary.  When it opens, we catch glimpses of scenes from films of the neorealist era.  You won't get a more literal interpretation of the phrase 'a window to the past' than this. 

Key scenes from the staples of Italian Neorealism such as De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948) and Umberto D. (1952), Visconti's Ossessione (1943) and Rossellini's monumental war trilogy Rome, Open City (1945), Paisan (1946) and Germany Year Zero (1948) are shown. 

The key word here is 'key', because unless you don't intend to see those pictures at all, or are comfortable with spoilers, you may wish to see The Neorealism another time.  However, these scenes do give casual moviegoers a buffet spread of the aesthetics and thematic concerns of this highly-influential movement.  But for the well-read film enthusiast, this documentary is no more useful than a Wiki page on the topic. 

The Neorealism is heavily narrated by Carlo Lizzani, who was there when the movement began (and ended).  Almost the entire piece is set in his home (presumably), and while the film is simple and no-frills in its approach, I suspect it may struggle to hold viewers' attention, especially if they aren't intrinsically interested in the first place. 

For better or worse, think of The Neorealism as a film lecture – it has educational properties and makes use of clips strategically to augment certain points.  There are a few interviews with people who were involved in the movement, but they don't quite yield interesting results. 

So the question is:  What does this documentary set out to achieve?  I think what's most important is perhaps its existence as a cultural record, one that ought to find some valuable significance in today's hustle-bustle world, which director Tsai Ming-Liang famously called a “throwaway era”, where people are no longer able to appreciate the value, cultural or otherwise, of things from the past.

Movies were never the same since the foundations of neorealism were laid in the 1940s.  Neorealism gave cinema truth when it reeked of artifice.  In turn, cinema gave us the meaning of life.  It continues to give us Truth in all of its incarnations.

Verdict:  The casual moviegoer will find this no-frills documentary about the history and impact of Italian Neorealism more useful than the well-read film enthusiast. 

GRADE: B- (7/10 or 3 stars)

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TRAILER (with Spoilers):


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