In 1946, Italian director Vittorio De Sica (The Bicycle Thief) released his first major work Shoeshine, a neorealist film about two boys in Rome who get arrested for a crime they didn’t commit. The film is beautiful, deep and thought-provoking. It won an honorary Oscar the following year causing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to create the Best Foreign Language Film category. This cinematic milestone is an absolute treasure and now yours to own on DVD.
Shoeshine follows friends Giuseppe (Finaldo Smordoni) and Pasquale (Franco Interlenghi), two young boys living in Rome shining shoes for money. They test-ride horses in their spare time and both have a dream of one day owning their own horse. They live life as mere peasants, hungry and dirty shining shoes day in and day out to feed themselves and to own day become owners of an equine. Their dream of owning a horse is what keeps them going.
One day, Giuseppe’s older brother Attilo visits him and Pasquale as they are shining shoes. He informs the two boys that he has some work for them, illegal work. He hooks them up with an individual by the name of Panza who has stolen blankets to sell. Giuseppe and Pasquale agree to sell the blankets. They sell the blankets to a woman but are soon ambushed by Attilo, Panza and another man posing as police officers. The three con men trick the woman into giving them money and Giuseppe and Pasquale manage to secure enough funds from the transaction to purchase a horse. They do so and enjoy riding the horse for quite some time.
Things are going well until the woman whom Giuseppe and Pasquale sold the blankets to informs the real police of what happened. The police then question the two boys, trying to find out who the three con men are but Giuseppe and Pasquale aren’t about to rat anyone out and because of their loyalty, they are sent to a juvenile detention center.
Giuseppe and Pasquale spend a considerable amount of time at the prison. Usually attached at the hip, the two boys are separated once they are imprisoned. They meet other boys who they share cells with and fight both physically and mentally to survive in the bleak environment they each now inhabit.
Shoeshine is a harrowing tale of two young men struggling to make ends meet, rise above the harsh impurities of society and most importantly, follow their dreams. Italian neorealist director Vittorio De Sica has taken a simple story of wrongful imprisonment and turned it into an epic adventure of strength and courage and love and friendship. Giuseppe and Pasquale are innocent. They are simply guilty of chasing after their dreams and because of that, they are confined to dark and filthy jail cells scraping for food and their dignity.
Italian neorealism is a truly beautiful style of filmmaking. The films shot in this particular style often feature stories of poor and working class characters usually taking place in post-World War II Italy and filmed on location such as Rome. The actors used in the films are also usually nonprofessional.
Shoeshine won a special honorary Oscar in 1947, the first one in its category, officially known now as the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Vittorio De Sica accepted the award paving the way for future filmmakers around the world. This then new Oscar category allowed directors from outside the United States to share their art with everyone in the globe.Shoeshine isn’t just a film, it’s an experience. It is a tale of hope and sustaining that hope through insurmountable odds. Now out on DVD, join Giuseppe and Pasquale as they fight to keep hope alive and try to turn their dreams into reality.
DVD Bonus Features
The bonus features for Shoeshine are slim but serviceable. There is a feature-length audio commentary by author Bert Cardullo and there is a trailer for the film.