Maurizio Nichetti's ''Icicle Thief,'' intended as a send-up of the 1949 film classic ''The Bicycle Thief,'' doesn't begin to take form until 20 minutes before it is finished. For far too long, it is too much like the original film. Those 20 minutes, however, are thoroughly delightful.
Nichetti stars, and as the director of the film within the film, he is appearing on a television show that precedes the showing of his ''Icicle Thief,'' a drama done in the neo-realistic fashion of Vittorio De Sica's ''Bicycle Thief.''
In time, the characters of the film within the film mix with people who have nothing to do with the film. They also mix with the characters who appear in the commercials that make the telecast possible.
It's a very clever premise, one with which Nichetti takes any number of liberties.
''The Icicle Thief,'' in Italian with subtitles, plays today through Sunday at the Charles. Nichetti plays both the lead of the film within the film and the director of the film who has agreed to appear on that television show and doesn't like the way the telecast is going. The characters have left his film, are doing things he did not write and are moving toward a happy ending, which the director does not want.
''The Icicle Thief''
** A movie director is frantic when the characters in his film go their own way.
CAST: Maurizio Nichetti, Lelia Costa, Heidi Komarek, Federico Rizzo
DIRECTOR: Maurizio Nichetti
RATING: No Rating
RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes