Vittorio De Sica’s Italian classic Shoeshine shows rare instance when children slip into adulthood too soon

Posted on March 26, 2020

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Though there is a “story” and a “screenplay” that’s been worked out, these scaffoldings of “narrative cinema” are near-invisible. The protagonists don’t seem guided by a screenwriter so much as destiny.

I’ve always wondered about the title of Vittorio De Sica’s Shoeshine (1946). Yes, it is about two boys who earn a living by shining shoes on the streets of Rome — but except for a sequence or two, these boys are hardly defined by their profession. They are defined by the fact that they aren’t boys so much as… miniature-sized men. Like Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone (where child actors played adult roles, like gangsters and molls) or like some relatively recent Tamil films (Vijay Milton’s Goli Soda and Pandiraj’s Pasanga), Shoeshine views childhood not as a blissed-out period of innocence but a miniature version of adulthood.

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