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SHOESHINE (1946, IT) – 8/10

“Sciuscia” or “Shoeshine” is considered one of the first examples of Italian neorealism, and along with Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica is the author whose films we can best see what life was like in post-war Italy. Although his films are fiction, “The Shoe Shines” as well as his later films, of which “Bicycle Thieves” is probably the most famous, act as real documents of the times. Real life stories of people, and in his first post-war film, De Sica chose children as the main protagonists. Although De Sica began his career as an actor in theater in the twenties of the last century, he also started making films in the early forties.

But the key moment was the meeting with Cesare Zavattini, who would become his permanent screenwriting collaborator and together they would make all the key films in the second half of the forties and fifties. Here we follow the fate of two shoe cleaners from the streets of Rome immediately after the end of the war. Giuseppe and Pasquale’s main customers are American soldiers, and Italy, which is recovering from Mussolini’s dictatorship and the country is still rebuilding, is still full of them. Poverty and misery are obvious, people are on the verge of starvation and manage in various ways, and life on the streets, fraud, petty crime and smuggling of stolen goods is the only way to earn money for many.

Giuseppe’s older brother Attilio is one of those petty criminals who often uses the services of children for the criminal activities of his group. Giuseppe and Pasquale dream of saving enough to buy a horse from a nearby farm, but shoe shine is not exactly a job they can earn that much. Nevertheless, together with Attilio, they will manage to carry out a fraud and get money for the horse, but their joy will be short-lived because soon they will be caught by the police and accused of stealing 70 thousand lire that Attilio and his team actually stole. The boys will end up in a juvenile detention center filled with kids like them, and it’s easy to guess that this isn’t one of those stories with a happy ending.

“Sciuscia” is a film that tragically and shockingly shows the extent of the humanitarian disaster in post-war Italy and what Mussolini’s fascism did to the country. Already with the first post-war films, De Sica showed that he was a fantastic director, and the documentary approach he applied in the films of that era was a guide for many later filmmakers, and what he filmed at that stage of his career was the complete opposite of the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. Although there was no Oscar for non-English-speaking films at the time, “Shoeshine” received an honorary award, as did “Bicycle Thieves” two years later, and thanks to these films, the Oscars were introduced in the mid-1950s to recognize non-English-speaking filmmaking. areas.