Victtorio de Sica's SHOESHINE, a Neorealist masterpiece, vividly captures the destitution of many youngsters in the cities of post-World War II Italy. Giuseppe (Rinaldo Smordoni) and Pasquale (Franco Interlenghi), two poor and hungry boys, trade goods on the black market in order to buy food and other items they need. When they're caught trying to sell stolen army material, the boys are sent to prison for their crimes. There, they discover a house of horrors, where corrupt guards open their packages and accept bribes for favors. Giuseppe and Pasquale try to escape, but an unimaginable tragedy awaits them.
Set in post World War II Rome, SHOESHINE, Vittorio De Sica's classic Italian Neorealist film, follows the friendship of two best friends, Giussepe (Rinaldo Smordoni) and Pasquale (Franco Interlenghi), who are saving money to buy a horse. When Giussepe's older brother offers the boys a job selling black market blankets, they earn enough money to buy the horse of their dreams, but are soon picked up by the police. Under interrogation, neither boy reveals the name of Giussepe's brother, and as a result both are sent to juvenile prison. In the harsh world of the prison, the two boys are assigned to different cells, with Giussepe falling in with a gang of toughened criminals. In a subsequent interrogation, the police pretend to whip Giussepe, tricking Pasquale into ratting on Giussepe's brother. Giussepe is unaware of the reasons why Pasquale finked on his brother and despises him for it. The ensuing hatred between the former best friends results in injustices and tragedy. Throughout, De Sica's dexterity with harsh reality, human cruelty, and the point of view of the young protagonists creates a touching and disturbing tale.
Vittorio De Sica's seventh film as a director brought him both national enmity and international adulation. It Italy, government officials stood aghast at De Sica's boldness in depicting the prison life of children, while in the United States the film received a special academy award.