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Archive for August 14th, 2015

shoeshine - Edited

by Richard Finch

We are the people who, in pursuit of our passions, abandon our children to fend for themselves. And our children are alone. All alone.

In the 1940s Vittorio de Sica directed three of the best and most moving films about children ever made—The Children Are Watching Us (1942), Shoeshine (1946), and Bicycle Thieves (1948). In each of these films, children find themselves in a world where the behavior of adults makes little sense to them, where they are powerless to control their own lives, and where they are unable to protect themselves from disappointment and hurt. It’s a sad, mystifying world for children, de Sica seems to be saying, and we adults are too self­ involved to feel their pain and confusion and help them through it.

In Shoeshine two boys, Pasquale and Giuseppe, live in poverty just after the end of the Second World War in Italy, shining shoes for American servicemen to finance their dream, to own a horse. They’ve been making payments on the horse for a while but can’t claim him until they make one large final payment. When Giuseppe’s older brother offers them a way to make part of the money they need for that payment, they jump at the opportunity, even though it involves doing something shady, delivering stolen American blankets to an elderly fortune teller for resale on the black market. While at the apartment, Giuseppe’s brother shows up with two men who identify themselves as policemen. The boys appear to have been set up as pawns in a sting operation but are lucky to escape and are able to keep all the money from the transaction as well, enough to make the final payment on their horse.

The boys are so ecstatic that they spend the night in the stable with their horse, only to find the next day that their good fortune has turned sour. Picked up by the police, they are accused of being accomplices in the robbery of the fortune teller, for the two men were not policemen at all. The most damning evidence against them is that large sum of money they used to make the final payment on the horse. The boys cannot explain where they got the money without implicating Giuseppe’s brother, and their sense of honor won’t let them do this. Unable to convince the police that they had no prior knowledge of the robbery, Pasquale and Giuseppe are sent to a juvenile prison to await trial. (more…)

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