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  • Since I enrolled in International Cinema at my university, I've had the opportunity to see classic foreign films in the theatre, and it's really opened me up to the genre. I'd have to say that this movie (Shoeshine, in English) struck me as one of the most powerful I've seen yet, a sad, bleak commentary on children's lives in postwar Italy. Shoeshine dealswith a pair of children living on the street, best friends who shine shoes for a living and whose greatest dream is to buy a horse, something they could actually take care of and call their own. Pasquale, the older boy, and Giuseppe, the younger, are drawn into a situation they don't quite understand the weight of. Not knowing that the Italian society is chaotic after the war (when children under ten years old are put into prison for crimes like vagrancy), Pasquale and Giuseppe are coerced into doing a favor for Giuseppe's brother, Attilio Filipucci -- they are to bring and sell smuggled American blankets to a lady fortune-teller for the Filipucci family's profit.

    Without warning, police appear at the fortune-teller's house, and question her. The boys are paid not to say anything, and are paid just enough to pool their money and buy the horse. Unfortunately, the fortune-teller has the boys taken from the street and into police custody, where, though claiming not to know anything, are fingerprinted and thrown into a juvenile prison. The prison and events that occur in it force the best friends apart, and the previously light-hearted story turns ugly. The boys' environment corrupts them, and innocence is quickly lost.

    Directed by the famous Vittorio De Sica, and with Cesare Zavattini doing his trademark poetic screenplay, Shoeshine definitely deserves its place as one of the first foreign films to with the Oscar of the same name. The Neo-realist De Sica does include some comic relief in the movie, and it's not all serious and depressing... The line from Giuseppe to Pasquale as they're walking up a flight of stairs, "Elevators sure are great," and Pasquale's answer of "Yes, I slept in one for quite a while," is one example.

    To say any more would give away the story, and you simply must experience this classic for yourselves. My rating: 9/10.
  • Sciuscia, or Shoeshine, tells a tragedy involving two boys, Pasquale and Giuseppe, both of whom try and make money from shining shoes, and also in dealing with black market goods. They hope to buy a horse one day (a wonderful opening shot of a horse running fast gets this point across since this is at its core a film of adolescence), but complications involving Giuseppe's older brother and gang land the two boys in jail just as they have enough for the horse. The film then deals with the boys in the reformatory/prison, over-crowded with conniving, shady influences as cell-mates, as well as the people who run the prison. To tell anymore of the plot would ruin it for the viewer who would go out of his way to find this - it's near impossible to find, which is a shame since The Bicycle Thief and Umberto D. are readily available in most stores and rentals - and it's enough to say that much of the film relies more on character than story. Because the director's dealing with a group of near total unknowns, they come first.

    This film, by Vittorio De Sica, was made very soon after the War had decimated the country he lived in. He didn't just want to make this movie, he had to- these characters are as real as their backdrop, a country still in the aftermath of a fascist state of affairs, and since the film deals with children there's all the more emotion to it. The only, very minor liability in the film is that the drama in the material isn't as simple and everyday as DeSica's later, more famous efforts; if it was under different direction it could've become a forgettable tearjerker. But the tragedies of these characters, Pasquale and Giuseppe, is splendid in the humanity that they feel, as it unfolds, and by the end it rings as true as any other given neo-realist effort of the late 40's and early 50's. Shoeshine is one of those rarities that may give a tear-jerker to someone who isn't expecting one, and I mean that as a compliment. Note, if you find this tape, it may be rather grainy and slightly shifty in frame, and the subtitles aren't complete- not to downplay the worth of the film in and of itself, however.
  • "Sciuscia" … one word carrying the poignant context of a devastating story, as the Italianization of the word 'Shoeshine', the name given to the little 'ragazzi' who shined GI's boots for a living. We're in 1945, when Italy was still recovering from the ashes of WWII.

    In one title, the tone is set, in an impoverished Italy, the main protagonists are all children carrying in their hands and hearts the hope of a slow rebirth. This light of hope is even conveyed in the opening scene when two kids, two friends, Pasquale and Giuseppe ride horses in the middle of a forest under a bright sunshine. Their fetish-horse is a white one, the fastest one, named Bersagliere, and both dream of owning him. Like in "Bicycle Thieves" or "Umberto D." the simplest things make the most inspirational statements about humanity, a bicycle is synonym of hope, a little dog is the only companionship an old man can dream of, in "Sciuscia", the horse is the dream, the exhilarating feeling of freedom inhabiting Pasquale and Giuseppe's hearts and the cement of a seemingly unbreakable friendship.

    Friendship, if anything, "Sciuscia" is the heart-warming story of a friendship, before it would turn into the heart-breaking chronicle of its destruction, all the more tragic because both couldn't foresee their lives without each other, and De Sica doesn't need to make it said, it's obvious. Pasquale is an orphan who lives in Giuseppe's home and while Giuseppe, younger and more immature, complains about having to give part of his 'shoeshine' money to his family, Pasquale wished he had a family to give money to. These boys have hopes, dreams, principles and even an innocence that haven't been undermined yet by a tragic turn of events. Unfortunately, Giuseppe has an older brother Attilio, who works for a fence named Panza, Attilio incarnates the eventual danger that Giuseppe might end like him and it's not coincidental that we meet him when Giuseppe talks to his child love, a pretty little girl who becomes, at that moment, the last link to childhood before the irreparable would be committed.

    As I said, "Sciuscia" carries the whole story in its title, it was in 1945, the GI were still here, and while the political authority was in reconstruction, many Italians made money through Black Market. Giuseppe and Pasquale were given a mission: to sell some US blankets to an old-lady, unknowing that Attilio and Panza would come up later passing as cops to steal the poor woman. Given enough money to buy the horse, they'll live the happiest parenthesis of their lives, riding Bersagliere, an exciting state of grace interrupted when they're questioned by the cops regarding the stealing of the old lady's money. Refusing to break the Omerta, and having no proof against them, both kids agree not to talk and patiently spend their time in the juvenile detention center.

    "Sciuscia" turns into a powerful social commentary about juvenile delinquency as the only desperate answer to difficult economical conditions, when kids were put in the same trunk with prostitutes, when some were forced to steal to nourish their family. As the trunk leaves the street, both Giuseppe and Pasquale are precociously leaving childhood, incarnated by the little girl who follows the trunk. And the center is filmed with a documentary-like style that finds the right tone between pathos and cold realism, De Sica trusts our intelligence enough not to portray the kids as little angels, some of them lie, frighten the newcomers, provoke fights, but some others are indeed victim of cruelly sad circumstances and a slow bureaucracy, like the kid named Rafaelle who can't be put in a sanatorium despite a severe lung-condition. Even the administrators are not all one-dimensional, they're men who went through Fascism, a war, and only use violence because disorder would be much worse.

    Fatally, Pasquale and Giuseppe have their friendships affected by their detention, starting at the moment they're sent in different cells: their cries and shouts, the way they keep their hands hooked to each other is an extraordinary display of desperate need to be together. Their separation only exposes them to the worst, to the influence of their respective groups that would slowly and progressively drive them apart. And it starts at the pivotal moment of the film when one of the guards pretends to hit Giuseppe to force Pasquale to talk, it's out of his love that Pasquale breaks his premise, and starts the turn of events that will destroy their friendship. Giuseppe will think of Pasquale as a snitch who sold his brother, and as revenge, sets him up in return, putting a deathblow on their friendship.

    It's impossible to describe with words the tragic path the movie takes, and its extreme realism only makes it worse. If "Bicycle Thieves" is regarded as one of the saddest films ever, there still is an imperceptible light of hope at the end. In "Sciuscia", the film doesn't have a sad score, the main theme is the joyful riddle-like music of the white horse that reminds of childhood's insouciance but God, it cruelly contrasts with the slow transformation that involves the two protagonists, even physical, the loss of innocence is one thing, but what can be sadder than a destroyed friendship. Killing the myth of the friendship built behind the bars, the film demonstrates how authority, bureaucracy, order can annihilate the most beautiful aspects of humanity, and finally how fragile are the most beautiful virtues.

    But I wonder if it's not sadder than the film itself, that one of the greatest masterpieces of Italian neo-realism, a movie I knew about through Scorsese's documentary about his Italian influence and Pauline Kael's review, has only 14 reviews (counting mine) while "The Avengers" already has 1207. One thing for sure, no last minute of a film haunted me as much as in "Sciuscia", while I desperately looked for something to keep my faith on humanity.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    (Spoilers) The separation of hands; that's what the movie is about. In postwar Rome two shoe shine boys, young friends, after some bad luck with adult black-marketeering, and false accusation of theft, are sent to a Rome juvenile prison. As each is put into separate cells, their hands cling, resistant to the forced separation of their hands, of their affections.

    "Shoe Shine," one of the most devastating films of all time about good youth in bad trouble, is really about what this separation of hands implies. They and we are thrust amid uncaring officials, in a prison that seems like a slow-to-die fascist institution in this post-fascist Italy. A prison inspector still imparts, involuntarily, the fascist salute. The upraised hand of the fascist salute contrasts with the desperate friendship and fraternal love in the hands of the two boys, Pasquale and Giuseppe, whom the system will hurt in the worst way possible, by separating them, by turning one against the other, by causing one to be responsible for the death of the other. Is there any greater cruelty?

    "Shoe Shine" is one of my favorite films of all time, and one of the greatest and most overwhelmingly moving Italian films ever made…in some ways even more potent than director De Sica's "The Bicycle Thief" or "Umberto D." The two boys are beautifully played by Franco Interlenghi as the older boy, Rinaldo Smordoni as the younger. In addition to them is another figure of innocence, the little Neapolitan Raffaele (Aniello Mele). He is in this hell-hole for kids merely because he has been abandoned by his mother. Sick and doomed to TB, despite the humane concern (the only true adult humanity we see here) of the new prison assistant Bartoli, he is a son anyone in his right mind would be honored to have. He commands respect even with the tyrannical prison chief Staffera when he slaps everyone to find out about the source of a chisel in a cell. He does not dare lay his hand to this generous little person who gives his food away who shows a kindness of a stature beyond his years.

    Raffaele was the boy-saint who tried to re-join the hands of his two friends, Giuseppe and Pasquale. This fails. The outside forces are too massed. In the tragic end, it is Pasquale who screams his lost friend's name, his hands trying to stir Giuseppe's now unmoving body. His hands.
  • With World War II over and the Fascist Party abolished, Italy was now set to address its recent past, as well as social issues affecting the country. Vittorio De Sica famously did this with "The Bicycle Thief", about a man witnessing the ambient poverty after his bicycle gets stolen. But a previous movie in which he focused on poverty was 1946's "Sciuscià" ("Shoeshine" in English), the first ever movie to win Best Foreign Language Film (at the time an honorary award). The protagonists are some boys arrested for petty crime and thrown into a brutal jail. Once inside, life becomes more dangerous than it had been before.

    De Sica pulls no punches in showing the jail's cruelty. The era isn't identified, but it doesn't need to be: the point is that life will not be easy for the majority of Italy's citizens. This exercise in neorealism shows the high-quality direction that Italian cinema was to take in the coming years. I hope to see more of his movies.
  • I am a huge admirer of the films directed by Vittorio De Sica during the 1940s. Using what is referred to as the 'neo-realist' style, he was able to craft many brilliant classics using ordinary folks in ordinary situations. So, without stage-bound sets and professional actors, he was able to make films superior to Hollywood--and among the best films ever. Try watching "The Children Are Watching Us", "Umberto D"or "Miracle in Milan" and you'll see what I am talking about--brilliant and compelling fro start to finish. The only negative about the films is that sometimes they can be incredibly depressing--and that is certainly the case with "Umberto D" and "Shoeshine". Depressing, but also amazing.

    Like the other neo-realist films, this one stars very ordinary folks--lots of kids--not professionals. Considering how hard it is to get realistic portrayals from kids, he really has to be commended for this. And, like this style of film, it was shot throughout Rome in various locations--not sets. And in the process, De Sica really hit a home run--chronicling a very sad period in Italian history.

    The film is set in Allied occupied Italy circa 1944. Folks are poor and hungry and jobs are hard to come by. Amidst this poverty, two kids (Pasquale and Guiseppe) are inexplicably saving all the money they can to buy a horse! And so, they take odd jobs, shine shoes and scramble to make a buck. When they are nearing their goal, they are tricked into doing a 'simple' job for Giuseppe's brother--and get arrested for stealing blankets from the Allied forces. Surprisingly, despite their age and how non-serious their crime appeared to be, the two are dealt with VERY harshly and are sent to a god-awful juvenile prison--where starvation and neglect are the norm. Most of the film is set in this awful place and it's a fascinating historical portrait of this period of time in recent history. I could say a lot more about what happens there but I don't want to spoil the surprise. Suffice to say, it's all very tragic--and you might want to have some Kleenex nearby just in case.

    The biggest strength of the film is the realistic acting by all the kids. You don't get the impression they are acting but that really are kids sent to prison. Also, although this might put some off, the story's insistence that it NOT have a nice happy ending is also a plus. Although I don't want a steady supply of depressing movies, I love that the film was not afraid to be sad in order to tell the story effectively. Well worth seeing and if you enjoy this film, I suggest you then try "The Children Are Watching Us" next--it is, in my opinion, De Sica at his directorial finest.
  • Honestly speaking I watch movies based on their ratings and IMDb is one site that I rely on (despite the fact that many good movies are underrated; anyway I suppose it is because movies are subjective) and if I find any movie rated 8 and above I would just die to watch them. One of that kind is Vittorio De Sica's The shoeshine and not just because it was rated 8 and above, but also for the movie being a European product.

    Unlike American movies most of the European movies have close ends rather open ends which make them phenomenal. Now let me tell you why 'The shoeshine' is phenomenal. After having seen the movies Umberto D, Bicycle thief and The Shoeshine(the third movie of De Sica which I watched) it became evident to me that the narrative is spun around the characters (emphasising on the dimensions of the character)where there is a transformation of the character from being vibrant to becoming docile or vice-versa and the like. This can be encountered in all the three movies which I have stated above. Say it be the Father and the son in The Bicycle thief or the old man and the dog in Umberto D or the two boys in The shoeshine.

    For movie buffs this movie is one gem to archive.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "I have been ruined by lack of money. All my good films, which I financed by myself, made nothing. Only my bad films made money. Money has been my ruin." - Vittorio De Sica

    As good as his more well known known neorealist works ("Bicycle Thieves", "Umberto D" etc), Vittorio De Sica's "Shoeshine" traces the lives of two shoeshine boys. Orphans, poor, estranged and struggling to survive, the duo find themselves drifting inexorably toward a life of crime. Much of the film's later half documents the boys' lives within juvenile facilities, where the state's attempts at reformation are shown to have only negative effects. Like many neorealist works, "Shoeshine" was well regarded in the West upon release (nominated for several Oscars), but was condemned by Italian officials for daring to point fingers at the nation's postwar failings.

    Taking place a year after the end of WW2, the majority of "Shoeshine" watches as the two boys – Giuseppe and Pasquale – prowl the street's of Rome, hustling cash, shining the shoes of American troops and dreaming of owning a beautiful horse. The horse, symbolic of freedom, self-worth, beauty, upward mobility, hope etc, epitomises the shredded shared aspirations of Italy's underclass. The film then begins to resemble the works of Charles Dickens, with their street urchins, likable ragamuffins and soot smeared daydreamers. Here the "horse" - which Giuseppe and Pasquale buy using blackmail money - is shown to be unattainable precisely UNLESS the boys resort to crime. It's the cruelest poverty trap, the duo arrested the moment they realise their dreams, which echoes earlier scenes in which De Sica has the kids visit a clairvoyant, a sequence which points to a kind of hard, social determinism. The boys aren't just fated to a life of suffering, society wills them into crime.

    The film becomes most interesting when the boys enter prison and various "reformation facilities". Loyalties are tested, the kid's are beaten, hearts harden, betrayals are frequent and we're introduced to hordes of other confined children, who seem to be perpetually whimpering in the dark, let out occasionally, if they're lucky, only to meet deeply embarrassed parents. At its best, the film shows how prisons purport to offer reform and redemption but serve only to warp incarcerated individuals, hardening them, coarsening them, making them worse. The film would be deeply influential on Luis Bunuel's "Los Olvidados" (Bunuel cites early De Sica as a big influence), which was released in 1950. De Sica's "Shoeshine" was released in 1946, with Rossellini's similar film, "Germany, Year Zero", released two years later in 1948. Rossellini's masterpiece is arguably better, but wouldn't exist without the groundwork De Sica lays here.

    "In handling the camera I feel that I have no peer," Orson Welles once said. "But what De Sica can do, I can't do. I ran his 'Shoeshine' recently and the camera disappeared, the screen disappeared; it was just life." At the time, many felt this way toward the neorealist movement. It's "authenticity" was new, gritty, these films offered a never-before-seen "heightened reality". But time is rarely kind to films which overtly attempt to "recreate real life". Once the novelty wears off you're often left with something contrived, calculated, "documentarian touches" revealing themselves to be (paradoxically) both sensationalistic and not sensationalistic enough next to whatever is the newest incarnation of "heightened reality". As a mainstream example, it's why Scorsese, son of neorealists, keeps getting more and more ridiculously manic, a kind of pornographic escalation into further and further layers of hyper-realism. Meanwhile, ground-zero reality gets increasingly banal.

    So "Shoeshine", like most neorealist works, is odd in that it's now both "not gritty enough" whilst revealing itself to "have never been realistic". It's a weirdness specific to neorealism, a movement which continually, with much futility, tries to capture a "reality" that always seems to exists beyond it. And of course like most neorealist works there is little metaphysical depth here, little of interest beside what we directly see (which is why Italian metaphysicians like Antonioni and Pssolini often feel more modern, more affecting, then the Viscontis, Rossellinis and De Sicas). On the plus side, all these flaws are tempered by De Sica's own particular brand of pathos, which is directly influenced by the poetic realism of the French, specifically Renoir, whom De Sica rightfully admired. And like Renoir, De Sica zeroes in on poverty, hardship, intergenerational estrangement and the sense of general moral decay and vacuity cast by Fascist regimes. In typical Renoir fashion, De Sica also codes class relationships cleanly but subtly, much of the film preoccupied with contrasts in "high" and "low", with characters towering over others, or with strategically placed stairs, top floors, bottom floors, ascents and descents. This up/down dynamic extends to the film's title and the chief occupation of the shoeshine boys, who must kneel submissively at the feet of American soldiers, in a national image of defeat and shame.

    8.5/10 – Worth one viewing. See "Germany Year Zero", "The Garden of the Finzi Continis", "Wendy and Lucy", "Land of Plenty", "Frozen River" and "Umberto D".
  • Just two years before Vittorio De Sica changed the world with The Bicycle Thieves (1948), the universally famous actor/director made a small, simple and beautiful movie by the name of Shoeshine (1946). Taking place in war ravaged Italy, the film features the stories of two young shoeshine boys who are tasked with delivering black market goods and get caught in a web of intrigue. Once they are caught by the police, their friendship is challenged when they're sent to an overcrowded boy's penitentiary.

    The majority of the film takes place in the penitentiary where the two boys (Franco Interlenghi and Rinaldo Smordoni) are separated from each other almost instantly. Forced into separate cells each holding five boys, they become the center of their own maelstroms when one mistakenly betrays the other. I won't ruin the whole picture other than mentioning that the main source of motivation early on is a horse they bought together.

    The period sets the tone for the film. Despite a bouncy score that highlights every small victory experienced by the characters, the lack of sustenance and poor conditions of life in and out of the penitentiary keeps things gloomy. The boys eat gruel which the warden calls "passable", medical help is slow and ineffective and beds are riddled with lice. Even one of the more kind-hearted superiors finds objection to the state of things. Yet at one point one of the boys calls his new home "paradise" because of its only slightly better living standard than sleeping in an elevator.

    The film is considered one of the first Italian neorealist works which would leave an indelible mark on Italian cinema and movies worldwide. The form contends with economic hardship and moral denigration as a canvas. Many times they would shoot in and around the streets of Italian cities and even hire non-professional actors to intensify the realism. Often this was for practical reasons. The aftermath of World War Two left the film industry (previously under the close watch of Mussolini) unable to maintain their studios.

    The Bicycle Thieves stands as the pinnacle of Italian neo-realism but for my money Shoeshine is the better movie. Both stories are quite compelling but from an outsider's perspective, the multiple Italian customs and the research required to understand them are much more-a- plenty in Bicycle Thieves. Additionally the main characters of Shoeshine are children no older than twelve. While in many cases this would be a slight when comparing one movie to another, the actors in Shoeshine act much more authentically to their predicament. There is one scene where the boys trot a horse down the street as the other shoeshine boys either cheer in zeal, or jeer in jealousy. They preen and strut like they're the talk of the town, the belle of the ball, or to put another way; two poor kids with a horse. How can you not smile at that image?

    There is a famous review of Shoeshine by the famous Pauline Kael where she mentions a "… petulant voice of a college girl complaining to her boyfriend, 'well, I don't see what was so special about that movie.'" She then claimed alienation from those who could not experience "the radiance of Shoeshine." In many ways I feel the same about it. If you're not effected by De Sica's first classic then you're not fully human.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie follows a couple of young teenage friends (Pasquale and Giuseppe) who are trying to survive, by shining shoes, in the difficult conditions in Italy after WWII. Pasquale is homeless and has been sleeping in elevators while Giuseppe is a bit better off, having a mother and brother living. However, it is Giuseppe's brother who involves the two friends in selling army blankets on the black market. From their rather innocent involvement in this scheme the boys are ultimately arrested and sent to a prison for juveniles.

    The bulk of the movie takes place in the prison and it is there that things start going very wrong for the two friends, leading to an ultimate tragedy. For me the power of the movie lies in its depiction of how a society on its ass creates a toxic environment that grinds people up in a downward spiral that they are powerless to control. I did not get the sense of any overarching evil on anybody's part--people on all levels were just tying to get by. The movie portrays how the social structure was overwhelmed in its attempt to climb out of the hole left by the war.

    There were some things that seemed inconsistent with the stark realism. The two friends are seen saving up to buy a horse that is being rented out to upper class people. I appreciate the value of the horse as a symbol of freedom and how people who are down can still have dreams, but was it realistic to think that the kids could buy the horse on income from shining shoes? The musical score often intruded with a sentimentality that seemed out of place. For kids who were supposedly on the verge of starvation, the kids in the prison seemed remarkably healthy, even the small kid with tuberculosis.

    I found the commentary track on the DVD to be of interest, since it made some points that I would otherwise not have noticed, like how the filming of the two friends mimics their relationship--close together on the screen at first and later separated.

    This is an example of how a quality movie can inform you about a small slice of history in a more effective manner than reading history books.
  • I have watched the unforgettable and justifiably renowned Bicycle Thief, and the impressive Umberto D. I had long been wanting to watch Shoeshine and finally saw it last evening, enjoying it as movies are meant to be enjoyed - on a big home screen with my new projector. The movie starts on a perky note - two boys, close friends, exuberant at having bought a horse they both love. One is almost lulled into thinking that this will be a buoyant movie about friendship and a horse. It turns out to be several shades darker. It is De Sica's genius that he can pull you in so quickly and make you feel such strong empathy for the two boys as they are brutalized by life within a short span of a few days; their friendship souring and spiraling down towards an ominous end. Be warned, this is a depressing movie. But it is a gem nonetheless, and I know that several scenes will remained etched in my mind forever. In particular, De Sica captures in a starkly beautiful manner the quicksilver bonding and the territorial rivalries of the boys trapped in a bleak Dickens' style detention center. A must watch for any fan of that strain of Italian cinema from the 1940s and 50s.
  • After Umberto D. and The Bicycle Thieves, I was loving Vittorio De Sica. His neo-realism films are heartbreaking and ring true to the human spirit. He almost has a free pass to make my top directors list, I just got to fill his next 3 spots. In retrospect, Shoeshine has brilliant plotting and characterisation. It takes emotionally motivated turns and has well constructed cruel ironies. Unfortunately, it struggles with its execution. It's not as tightly edited or shot as his two later films, often making scenes confusing and key plot points are missed. The score and performances, of which I recognise are from amateurs, can be too melodramatic. Its atmosphere ends up feeling inauthentic. Umberto and Bicycle were great for their subdued portrayals of inner pain, I wish Shoeshine was the same. I would love to rank this film among those two as its screenplay is really great but both the crew in front and behind camera let it down. Still has a punch though and gets more engaging as it goes along. Great decision to have most of the film take place in that great set of a juvenile prison.

  • This is one of Vittorio De Sica's early works but probably his breakthrough. Well, maybe not really his breakthrough (that was the more famous 'Ladri di biciclette') but at least his first major work. The name of Vittorio De Sica is almost automatically associated with 'Ladri di biciclette', which is almost inevitable, considering its fame and reputation. 'Sciuscià (Ragazzi)' doesn't seem to be as well-known. That is probably the reason why I never heard of it so far.

    It's a well-told movie, well-directed, well-made, ta ta ta... but so depressing that it's hard to watch. On that sense, it's a lot like 'Ladri di biciclette'. It's one of those movies that take time to grow on us, but once it does it's a good movie.

    'Sciuscià (Ragazzi)' is the tragic story of two friends (Pasquale Maggi and Giuseppe Filippucci) who shine shoes for a living. They share a common dream: to save enough money in order to get themselves one horse. The two shoeshine boys see themselves in trouble with the police after trying to find the money to buy a horse. One day it seems that their dream will finally come true, but in reality their nightmare has only just begun. They are framed and find themselves in a trap before they can even understand what's going on. Soon they end up in jail for a crime they didn't commit.

    When they go to their hell (that is, prison), although separated, they try to remain friends... but the time spent in prison and the environment there destroys them. Destiny has in store a tragedy that concerns both of them, which is how the movie ends...

    The boys act superbly: Franco Interlenghi as Pasquale and Rinaldo Smordoni as Giuseppe.
  • The principle characters in this drama are a couple of poor children. These are kids to dig and scrap for a little happiness. One has not parents; the other's parent has her own problems. These kids seem to thrive on their own hard work. The war is on and the soldiers for whom they shine shoes continually put them off instead of paying them. They are also susceptible to money-making schemes and are sometimes victimized by bad people. After committing a petty crime, they are put in a boy's detention center because the police think they have done way more. Now the rules change. Where they had relative freedom, despite poverty, they are now at the mercy of a disinterested constabulary. The authorities need a confession. When none is forthcoming, evil manipulation comes into play. DeSica in this film and others of the time, show the natural destruction of the future of a culture, lying in the wake of Mussolini's fascist comedown. This is quite a wonderful film but very hard to watch.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Despite producing all of the requite emotions of sadness, tragedy, and horror you expect from a fine Italian Neorealist film, I can't help but feel that Shoeshine is more staged and thus less effecting than DeSica's greatest works of the period, The Children Are Watching Us and The Bicycle Thieves. There are moments where the plot actually imposes itself on the viewing of the film, where the action takes on a "genre" quality that isn't entirely successful for me.


    The escape from the children's prison, for example, feels like it could have been taken from any narrative film and seems out of place in a film whose essential story is about the depths of friendship and the longing for simple pleasures (if you call a horse a simple pleasure) in post-war Italy. The bumbling court and police sequences also seem far too scripted.

    I suppose my principle problem is the performance by Rinaldo Smordoni as Giuseppe, one of the two shoeshine-boy heroes of the film. He seems much too self-conscious, as if mugging to the camera. Compare this with other child performances in DeSica's films (including Franco Interlenghi's Pasquale in this film) and I think it's clear that there's a decent sized hole in the center of Shoeshine.

    That being said, the major flaw hardly keeps Shoeshine from being heartbreaking in that "Oh God, since this is Neo-realism, something horrible's bound to be lurking around the corner" way. DeSica was a master at that. He understands that in a war-torn country, sometimes caring too much (like Pasquale, or the kind hearted supervisor of the prison) can be the greatest mistake.

    The print that I saw, projected and 35 mm, was missing complete subtitles. I think all of the important stuff was translated, but tiny conversations were mostly ignored. I don't suppose this had anything to do with my take on the film, but it's still worth mentioning.

    Probably still a 7.5/10
  • After watching The Bicycle Thief and Umberto D and having been so impressed by those films I secured a copy of this. Unfortunately, this fell way short of those other two both in style and content. Why this has received such praise is beyond me. Unlike the former films which are slow paced, meditative and draw you in this just rockets along at a pace and I found it hard to follow. The dialogue comes at you like machine gun fire and I found it really hard to read the subtitles fast enough to keep pace with the story. The acting was totally unconvincing too. It reminded one of more of the dramatic hammy renditions given by Italian football players falling down in phony pain trying to convince the ref to give a free kick. I wasn't convinced at all. It left me cold.
  • This is perhaps the most disturbing of all Vittorio de Sica's many masterpieces, as it deals almost only with children, mainly boys who aren't even old enough to know or understand what they are doing or what happens to them. The mood is a precursor to Visconti's terribly realistic masterpiece "La terra trema" two years later, but here it all happens in the bleakest parts of central Rome, and only the horse offers some kind of relief. The boys, who spend all their earnings to buy a horse they love riding, are lured into black market dirty business and get caught and end up in juvenile prison, where the sanitary conditions are horrible and the boys are crowded together into small dark cells. Naturally they want to escape. The only comedy moment of the film, in which you recognize the mature de Sica's splendid sense of human humor, is when the direction decides to give the boys some entertainment by showing a film, and naturally things happen during this performance. The direction as always in de Sica's films is splendid throughout like all the actors, and although the story is slightly exaggerated and dramatized, the impact of the realism is convincing and shocking enough. His next film "Bicycle Thieves" would be milder, while this is downright upsetting all the way through, and there is even one innocent casualty, who will make your heart bleed.
  • Heartfelt stuff from De Sica once again this time capturing the lives of two young shoeshine boys working the streets of wartime Rome scrimping and scraping for family and the dream of owning a horse, soon trouble comes there way after being caught selling black market goods and the pair end up in a juvenile detention center, from here the friendship becomes broken as the two become separated and told different things from there cellmates, its all handled perfectly from the loyalty to the bitter feeling of betrayal and the whole sadness of the situation that these lost boys experience which is brilliantly played all the way through right to its gut-punch ending, performance-wise the kids are great and all do a fantastic job considering they are all first-time actors it also claims of being one of the earliest in the Italian neorealist movement, once again this is pure magic from De Sica and the film is rightly considered to be his first masterpiece.
  • The first of three classic movies made within five years that placed director Vittorio de Sico at the forefront of the neo-realist movement is the kind of poignant tragedy that lingers long in the mind. Rinaldo Smordoni and Franco Interlenghi give astonishingly assured performances that belie their lack of experience in front of the camera, playing shoeshine boys who find their friendship tested by a spell in prison for selling stolen goods, and De Sica deftly sidesteps the sentimental pitfalls that such stories always present. If that devastating final scene doesn't move you, you're already dead...
  • One of the best Films i've seen This year and another great film from The Master of Neo-Realism "Vittorio De Sica".
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Post war Italian cinema fascinates me, mostly because almost every film was made in a world both vibrant and alive with history and absolutely dirt poor. It's a really interesting dichotomy that, even when it's not addressed explicitly, colors nearly every scene. At the heart of almost every Italian film made from the end of the World War II to the mid-50s is this motif of lost potential and sadness.

    Vittorio de Sica is one of the filmmakers that most tried to bring these conceits to the forefront while telling his stories. His second film, Shoeshine , is quite an example of it.

    The story follows two boys. One is an orphan. The other has a mother, but little structure because of the abject poverty that permeates the family's existence. They are shoeshine boys, making lira from American soldiers while helping some local mafia types (one of whom is a brother to one of the boys) sell stolen goods, all in an effort to buy a horse (which they manage to do). They sell to an old lady in an apartment, and the hoods come in, pretending to be police officers, and rob her blind. She later recognizes the two boys on the street. Convinced that they were part of the plot (which they weren't), she has them arrested and they go to an overcrowded juvenile prison, packed with other boys ranging from about 6 to 16.

    The rest of the story is the destruction of the friendship and any sense of goodwill between the two. There's no conspiracy by the other boys to break them apart, just one effort by the guards to extract information about the robbery. The older boy gives up some names, the actual robbers are arrested, and the other boy is accused of spilling the information. His family hates him for it, despite not having done it. He lashes out and starts a fight. There's an escape on movie night. The boy who did the telling is left behind, offers to help find the one who escaped. The actions all lead to the smaller boy dying, a death caused almost entirely by the other.

    Why is this compelling? It's sad, really sad. It's compelling because the boys are very clearly and believably drawn through writing and performance. The environment where they live feels real in very painful ways. The movie was released in 1946. There's a scene where the boys watch a newsreel that includes footage of the ongoing war in the Pacific. Italy has been decimated by the war and hasn't even really begun to rebuild. The completely destruction of two boys, smart enough to save tens of thousands of lira for a horse, is tragic. There's no one individual really at fault (a product of de Sica's real life socialist ideals), leaving the boys without any place to turn, creating a permanent downward spiral that will always lead to tragedy.

    It's not de Sica's best film (I still think that's Umberto D and most conside
  • kenjha21 June 2013
    A couple of street kids become involved with some unsavory characters and end up in a prison for juvenile delinquents. De Sica was a leader of the Italian neo-realism movement, and this is celebrated as the earliest of his masterpieces. Unfortunately, it is not in the same class as "Bicycle Thieves" and "Umberto D." It is ironic that this is (or was) regarded as realistic because it has some embarrassingly melodramatic scenes. While the two kid actors are pretty good, the adults are all portrayed as ruthless, one-dimensional villains, showing little regard for the troubled youth. Perhaps De Sica did this on purpose to expose the conditions at such places in Italy, but it doesn't make for good drama.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Vittorio Di Sica's Shoeshine (1946) is a very well thought out, and well executed film.

    But I'm just sick of seeing Continental European WWII films and post-WWII films that are filled with despair, hopelessness, and an eradication of meaning in life. I know that the people on Continental Europe suffered a lot during WWII, but across decades, and across national boundaries, EVERY WWII film, and post-WWII film that I've seen from Continental filmmakers is just filled with despair, hopelessness, and an eradication of meaning in life. Even as late as 1992, Lars von Trier's Europa is yet another really negative and downer film about post-WWII. I mean SOMEONE on the Continent must have emerged from WWII with a a relatively happy story. Yet, you wouldn't think so if you watched as many of these negative, downer, depressing WWII films from Europe as I have. It's really a distinct genre: "WWII films and post-WWII films from Continental Europe that are filled with despair, hopelessness, and an eradication of meaning in life".
  • Since the review the movie has been re-released from a new Italian Print. That should cure the grainy problem mentioned by the reviewer. I just got it so I can't give a review rating. The Masters of Cinema Series is a well done project so I'm sure I'll be satisfied with their work. To quote from their web site "Shoeshine is widely regarded as one of the finest films to have emerged from the Italian neo-realist cinema." They have released many silent films and from what I've watched so far, the quality of their releases is amazing. They have extra bonus material on their DVDs as well and the project is well worth you looking at if you are interested in old films. This film comes with a 24 page booklet as does many of the other films.
  • "Shoeshine" (1946), the seventh film by legendary Italian neorealist director Vittorio De Sica, was a great critical success and became the first foreign film to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, receiving an honorary award.

    /Mårten Larsson, Facebook & Twitter: @7thArtShortRevs