Movie Project #20 and #21: The Bicycle Thief [1948] and 8 1/2 [1963]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

The Bicycle Thief [1948, De Sica]
The Bicycle Thief [1948, De Sica]
Starring Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell

This classic Italian neorealist film really impressed me. It’s such a simple story, but it is gripping just the same: A man living in poverty takes on a new job that requires a bicycle, but the bike gets stolen on his first day of work. Together with his young son he scours the city, desperately trying to find his bicycle so he can make money to support his family. It’s a bleak tale because it is hard not to get immersed in the world of poverty that was heavily prevalent in Italy at the time. In this regard, I loved how authentic the movie felt, and this is partly attributed to the fact that non-actors were used for many of the roles. The ending, while tragic and undeniably sad, was most appropriate and left me speechless. A fantastic drama that has easily earned its place in cinematic history. 9/10

8 1/2 [1963, Fellini]
8 1/2 [1963, Fellini]
Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimée, Claudia Cardinale

My first Fellini film left me puzzled and confused. I am still a little unsure as to what I saw. At times, it felt like an overly self-indulgent egotrip, yet it was often hard to look away. The film is about a famous movie director who has a case of writer’s block. He has retreated to a spa to help relax and find inspiration for his upcoming sci-fi blockbuster. During this time, the movie weaves in and out of reality, as well as the director’s dreams. Some scenes are quite memorable (the harem dream scene in which all of the women in his life come together is particularly brilliant), yet I felt others fall flat. One element that is consistent is the beautiful imagery — there seemed to be an emphasis on style over substance. The stream of consciousness narrative reminded me a lot of Synecdoche, New York (obviously influenced by 8 1/2), a movie that bored me beyond belief. As a piece of art, there’s no denying 8 1/2 has exceptional style. It just struggled to keep me entertained throughout. 6/10

What do you guys think? Agree? Disagree? I would love to hear some counterpoints for 8 1/2.

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12 thoughts on “Movie Project #20 and #21: The Bicycle Thief [1948] and 8 1/2 [1963]

  1. CS says:

    I really enjoyed both of these films. If I had to choose I would say that The Bicycle Thief is the better of the two. This is just my personal preference. As for 8 1/2, I actually say the musical film Nine first (which was awful) so I already had a good idea of the story when I finally watched Fellini’s film. There is a dreamlike beauty to 8 1/2. Which is also why I can understand how you could find the film boring. Still, it worked for me.

    • Eric says:

      Hey, thanks for stopping by The Warning Sign! Glad to hear you enjoyed both films. I can see why a lot of people love 8 1/2, and it has certainly been very influential, but I just didn’t find it all that entertaining. Perhaps I will give it another shot someday — I have heard of others gaining a new appreciation after their second viewing.

  2. SDG says:

    I had same feeling after watching 81/2. Its confusing and not entertaining enough. But if you think about the movie maybe after couple of days, you start appreciating a lot of things about it. I surely did. I still wouldn’t call it great, but I definitely can see why is it such an influential film.

    • Eric says:

      Hey, thanks for stopping by! Glad to hear I am not alone with 8 1/2. I definitely appreciate a lot of what the film accomplished, but it hasn’t had the same effect on me as so many other classics.

  3. Kyle says:

    “8 1/2” was my first Fellini film, too, and I was also left perplexed. I have since seen a few more of his films, so something tells me I will enjoy it a lot more on a second viewing (and I do plan on viewing it again). You should make “La Dolce Vita” your next Fellini film, it has the same dreamlike beauty of “8 1/2,” but with a bit more narrative structure. I fell in love with that film hard, and will recommend it to anyone.

    And of course, “The Bicycle Thief” is devastatingly brilliant.

    • Eric says:

      Hi there, thanks for the comment! I’ll be sure to check out La Dolce Vita. I’m not ready to give up on Fellini yet, so I will keep that in mind for a near future viewing.

      It’s also nice to see unanimous approval of The Bicycle Thief from everyone. What a fantastic film.

  4. Max says:

    I feel the same way about 8 1/2. No matter how many times I’ve tried to watch it, I always get an empty feeling. I felt a lot stronger about Fellini’s Armacord, so I would definitely check that out.

    • Eric says:

      That’s funny that you mention Armacord, I was just looking at that last night. It has a really interesting Criterion cover. I’ll be sure to check it out at some point, thanks for the tip!

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