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
I have watched the unforgettable and justifiably renowned Bicycle Thief, and the impressive Umberto D. I had long been wanting to watch Shoeshine and finally saw it last evening, enjoying it as movies are meant to be enjoyed - on a big home screen with my new projector. The movie starts on a perky note - two boys, close friends, exuberant at having bought a horse they both love. One is almost lulled into thinking that this will be a buoyant movie about friendship and a horse. It turns out to be several shades darker. It is De Sica's genius that he can pull you in so quickly and make you feel such strong empathy for the two boys as they are brutalized by life within a short span of a few days; their friendship souring and spiraling down towards an ominous end. Be warned, this is a depressing movie. But it is a gem nonetheless, and I know that several scenes will remained etched in my mind forever. In particular, De Sica captures in a starkly beautiful manner the quicksilver bonding and the territorial rivalries of the boys trapped in a bleak Dickens' style detention center. A must watch for any fan of that strain of Italian cinema from the 1940s and 50s.
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