Shoeshine (Sciusciá) (Ragazzi)
Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Written by Sergio Amidei, Adolfo Franci, Cesare Gulio Viola, and Cesare Zavattini
Societa Cooperativa Alfa Cinematographia
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
Pasquale Maggi: Tell me about it. I slept in one for three months.
Vittorio De Sica sure did like to put kids through the wringer. He made some beautiful films in the process.
Pasquale and Giuseppe are fast friends who eke out a living by giving shoeshines to GIs in post-war Rome. Giuseppe has a family but Pasquale is homeless. Their dream is to buy a horse they have been riding. Of course, they are short the necessary 50,000 liras.
The boys are not averse to making money outside their shoeshine business. Giuseppe’s brother takes them to a man who offers them 500 liras to sell U.S. Army blankets to a fortune teller. Unbeknownst to them, it is part of the older men’s scheme to impersonate policemen apprehending the boys for selling stolen goods and then rob the woman at gunpoint. The boys are told to leave, receiving all the proceeds from the blankets and enough more to afford the horse. They purchase the horse and lavish it with all their love.
Soon enough, the boys are picked up for their participation in the robbery and thrown into juvenile prison pending investigation. Their one great imperative is not to squeal on Giuseppe’s brother. But prison life grinds both down until the friends become enemies.
As usual, De Sica tells a very sad story without once descending into melodrama. His non-professional cast does very well, particularly the two leads who imbue their characters with humanity and innocence even at their very worst. The film is beautifully shot. Recommended.
Shoeshine won an Honorary Academy Award with the citation: “The high quality of this Italian-made motion picture, brought to eloquent life in a country scarred by war, is proof to the world that the creative spirit can triumph over adversity.” The film was also Oscar-nominated for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.
Clip – no subtitles but really unnecessary – check out the brilliant editing!