Directed by Vittorio De Sica (Bicycle Thieves, Umberto D), Shoeshine was filmed on location in postwar Rome using non-professional actors. It was inspired by the real stories of those struggling to overcome the oppressive forces of a corrupt and ineffective political system.
De Sica’s film depicts the troubled lives of two young boys caught up in the chaos of a world plagued by poverty and unemployment. Giuseppe (Rinaldo Smordoni) and Pasquale (Franco Interlenghi) work on the street, where they shine the shoes of American troops. They dream of a better life, seeking solace in a horse that they ride to escape their harsh reality. When the boys are implicated in a petty crime, they are punished by the society that has robbed them of their innocence, resulting in tragic consequences.
Shoeshine is widely regarded as one of the finest films to have emerged from the Italian neorealist cinema. It was also the first foreign film to receive an Oscar. “The high quality of this motion picture,” noted the Academy, “brought to eloquent life in a country scarred by war, is proof to the world that the creative spirit can triumph over adversity.”
Few European film-makers combined artistic ambitions with a genuine populist spirit in the manner of Vittorio De Sica. In his prolific career, the actor-director made many films on social subjects which nonetheless engaged a mass audience. A Neapolitan by birth, De Sica came from humble roots, working as a theatre actor in the early 1920s. His stage success led De Sica to films where he proved to be a popular actor, mounting more than thirty film credits before his directorial debut with Rosa Scarlatte (which he co-directed with Giuseppe Amato). Even after his success as a director, De Sica was a much sought after performer; appearing in such classics as Max Ophüls’ Madame de… and Roberto Rossellini’s Il Generale della Rovere.
De Sica’s fourth outing as a director was his first collaboration with screenwriter and film theorist Cesare Zavattini. The Children Are Watching Us anticipated neorealism in its detached focus on a young boy’s growing isolation from his mother. De Sica… read more