SASY Rank – The 1940s

Another decade down, another SASY Rank mini-post. With the 1940s now behind us it is time for the two of us to scrawl down the films that impressed us the most from the decade. There are 36 films from the 1940s on the Sight & Sound list, but as it happens we are largely on the same page with regard to our selections. Neither of us could resist throwing 11 films into our respective Top 10s and we share nine films. That’s a good indication of how strong these nine films were, because this was a particularly satisfying decade for the both of us. There were quite a few filmmakers boasting multiple list films during the decade (Powell & Pressburger, Howard Hawks, Roberto Rossellini, John Ford, Orson Welles) but nobody dominated our Top 10 lists the way that Jean Renoir did in the 1930s. No, we’ve spread the love around on this one and can’t wait to move into the 1950s with our next yammer.

We’ve already yammered about all of the films below, so we’ll leave the lists to speak for themselves. But if you want more, then click on a film title to be magically transported to our conversation.

S.

J.

1. Casablanca (1942) 1. Citizen Kane (1941)
2. Late Spring (1949) 1. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
3. Brief Encounter (1945) 3. Late Spring (1949)
4. Citizen Kane (1941) 4. Out of the Past (1947)
5. Out of the Past (1947) 5. Casablanca (1942)
6. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) 6. Day of Wrath (1943)
7. The Shop Around the Corner (1940) 7. Bicycle Thieves (1948)
8. A Canterbury Tale (1944) 8. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
9. Bicycle Thieves (1948) 9. My Darling Clementine (1946)
10. My Darling Clementine (1946) 10. A Canterbury Tale (1944)
10. The Third Man (1949) 10. Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)
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#33 – Bicycle Thieves (1948), dir. Vittorio de Sica

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

I want to ride it where I like. Antonio and his son Bruno suffer the indignity of poverty and desperation — but also enjoy connection and understanding — in the neo-realist classic Bicycle Thieves.

We’ve already taken a rather precipitous dive into Italian Neorealism with a trilogy of movies by the genre’s founder, Roberto Rossellini. But the most famous and most highly lauded film from that school of movie-making is director Vittorio de Sica’s deceptively simple masterpiece Bicycle Thieves (Ladri de bicicleta, 1948). So potent was the film’s impact — at least among critics — that it topped the first Sight & Sound list in 1952 — yes, just four years after the movie came out it was hailed as the greatest film ever made. And while Bicycle Thieves no longer hangs about in the vaunted Top 10 of the Sight & Sound list, it is still easy to see how the film captured the hearts and minds of the critical establishment back in the day (and its current rank of 33 is nothing to sneeze at either). Like Rossellini’s Neorealist Trilogy, Bicycle Thieves makes pointed use of location shooting and non-professional actors to tell a story that is grittier and more grounded in the real world than filmic spectacle. But unlike Rossellini’s work, which uses extreme violence or an uncompromising narrative bleakness to make its points, Bicycle Thieves is a simple story about a simple family. It follows a man and his son as they scour Rome looking for the man’s stolen bicycle, which he desperately needs to keep his job. But in sticking with this father/son duo, de Sica offer up a wealth of commentary on poverty, family, the plight of the working class, religion, and Italian society in general but always in a manner that feels organic, funny, and emotional resonant. So let’s go for a ride! (Just make sure you lock up that bike up when we’re done.) Continue reading