Shoeshine Movie Review (1946)
Vittorio de Sica was one of the founding fathers of Italian neorealism, a genre that developed post-WWII. His film Shoeshine, made with Casare Zavattini (who collaborated on all his best films), was the first foreign film to receive an Oscar. It established the Special Academy Award category in 1947, which later lead to the institution of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Sica’s film Bicycle Thieves won the same award two years later.
Filmed in Rome, Shoeshine focused on the lives of children (a common theme for de Sica), tragically affected by the ultimate deconstructive event. War. They were the fallout of a system that failed them and then forgot them, in de Sica’s perspective. Many of de Sica’s films pay homage to the unknowns…the ones who never made History. Orson Welles once remarked in 1960 that with Shoeshine, "the camera disappeared, the screen disappeared; it was just life…". So often, due to the nature of the medium, film tends to spotlight import, to dictate it, rather than bring to attention those people and events that are generally left in the shadows. With a budget of less than $20,000 and a cast of no-name actors, the film was a great success as an art film, but a financial flop. The director has maintained that all of his best films made no money.
Bert Cardullo’s Vittorio de Sica: Director, Actor, Screenwriter was published in 2002. The book contains an interview with Charles Thomas Samuels in which de Sica describes Italian neorealism the way he intended it: “It is not reality. It is reality filtered through poetry, reality transfigured. It is not Zola, not naturalism, verism, things which are ugly…. [It] was born after a total loss of liberty, not only personal, but artistic and political. It was a means of rebelling against the stifling dictatorship that had humiliated Italy. When we lost the war, we discovered our ruined morality. The first film that placed a very tiny stone in the reconstruction of our former dignity was Shoeshine.”
The United States has not yet released a DVD version of Shoeshine.
- Story A-
- Acting A-
- Visuals A-
- Originality/Innovation A-
- Enjoyability A-
- Overall A-