|Sciuscia (aka Shoeshine) (1946) – Italian
Run time: 1h 33min | Drama
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Writers: Sergio Amidei, Adolfo Franci
Stars: Rinaldo Smordoni, Franco Interlenghi, Annielo Mele
In Rome at the end of World War II, two young boys, fast friends, make their living shining the boots of American GIs occupying the city. They fall inadvertently foul of the law and are sent to a reform school where they are brutally mistreated and their friendship begins to deteriorate as a result. The film, made two years before De Sica’s masterpiece BICYCLE THIEVES, received an Honorary Award at the 1948 Academy Awards for its high quality (the precursor of what was later to be the Award for Best Foreign Language Film).
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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.
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.
(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.
In Rome for post-war during the allied occupation, two young shoe shine dream bought a horse. The only way to get the money is using the broad black market, the result of hunger and unemployment. However, the two boys does not have luck, and are arrested and sent to prison. It is an exciting film, written by Cesare Zavattini and Sergio Amidei.. Directed by Vittorio de Sica, is his first important work. Debuted in Italy on April 27 1946, 10 months after the completion of the WWII in Europe is rewarded, in addition, with a nomination to a Oscar (screenplay) and the granting of an honorary Oscar, the first to receive a film abroad. The action takes place in Rome and surrounding area, in the early months of 1946.Vittorio de Sica, after 6 years of experience in the direction of cinema, creates a dramatic but dazzling and very tender.. Develops the narration in terms documentalists, with the purpose of show without artifice and with credibility a tragic reality. With respect and affection is left captivated by the innocence, simplicity and spontaneity natural of some children faced with a tragic fate, and some people of sensitivities broken by years of war and despair. The work is a splendid portrait of the children of the post-war orphans of parents, affections, hospitality, understanding and support. It is a beautiful and devastating testimony spot with emotion that spreads and a pain content. The photography, of Anchise Brizzi is very carefully, and the music by Alessandro College ("bicycle Thieves", De Sica, 1948), is very beautiful and emotional. It is a movie worthy of view.