Two shoeshine boys in postwar Rome, Italy, save up to buy a horse, but their involvement as dupes in a burglary lands them in juvenile prison where the experience take a devastating toll on their friendship.
At a track near Rome, shoeshine boys are watching horses run. Two of the boys, the orphan Pasquale and his younger friend Giuseppe, are riding. The pair have been saving to buy a horse of their own to ride. The boys meet Attilio, Giuse's much older brother, and his shady friend at a boat on the Tiber. In return for a commission, the boys agree to deliver black market goods to a fortune-teller. Once the woman has paid, Attilio's gang suddenly arrives, pretending to be cops, to shake the woman down. With a payoff from Attilio, the boys are able to make the final payment and stable their horse in Trastevere over the river. The fortune-teller identifies Pasqua and Giuse. Held at an overcrowded boys' prison, they are separated. Giuse falls under the influence of an older lad in his cell, Arcangeli. During interrogation, Pasqua is tricked into betraying Giuse's brother to the police. With their trial still in the future, the two friends are driven further apart.Written by
The title is a Napulitan corruption of the English word "shoe-shiner." See more »
[as the film projector is being set up in the boys' prison]
In here they feed us, they shelter us, they give us clothes, and they even entertain us. What else could we want? This is paradise!
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Some USA video editions are edited to suppress the full nudity in the shower scene and to minimize the subsequent fist fight between two boys. See more »
With World War II over and the Fascist Party abolished, Italy was now set to address its recent past, as well as social issues affecting the country. Vittorio De Sica famously did this with "The Bicycle Thief", about a man witnessing the ambient poverty after his bicycle gets stolen. But a previous movie in which he focused on poverty was 1946's "Sciuscià" ("Shoeshine" in English), the first ever movie to win Best Foreign Language Film (at the time an honorary award). The protagonists are some boys arrested for petty crime and thrown into a brutal jail. Once inside, life becomes more dangerous than it had been before.
De Sica pulls no punches in showing the jail's cruelty. The era isn't identified, but it doesn't need to be: the point is that life will not be easy for the majority of Italy's citizens. This exercise in neorealism shows the high-quality direction that Italian cinema was to take in the coming years. I hope to see more of his movies.
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