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Tuesday29 July 2014

Top 50 Films for Architects: Shoeshine

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2. Shoeshine

Director: Vittorio De Sica
1946

Real life locations sets the tone for a brutal taste of life in a juvenile prison

In its time Shoeshine startled audiences with its rawness.

It sent a jaded film critic, Pauline Kael, out into the streets in tears and awakened a taste for actual locations instead of studio sets, real places that made you feel closer to its deprived lives. The streets and stairwells and bureaucratic recesses of Rome memorably played themselves, and the juvenile prison where it occurs was filled with street children instead of actors.

Life in the cells is harsh, but includes a surprisingly delicate study of the mixture of calculation and generosity imprisonment calls forth. The stream of adults peripheral to the story is almost more interesting and makes up a moral portrait of a city in difficult times hard to match for quiet profundity. Each of them is tested briefly and fails.

The prison doctor gave up long ago and conducts absurdly perfunctory examinations. The functionary registering prisoners asks his heartless questions gently but just keeps writing. The refined director knows that to get ahead he needs to ignore blatant injustices. And so it goes, with tiny revealing touches whenever grown-ups rub against the children.

I can’t believe that De Sica or his screenwriter, Cesare Zavattini, knew the borstals first hand. This one isn’t much more vicious than the average playground. In fact you can visit the intimidating building in Trastevere where it was shot. It’s now an art gallery.

Shoeshine, Vittorio De Sica, 1946

Top 50 Films for Architects

  1. An Actor’s Revenge — Director: Kon Ichikawa, 1963
  2. Shoeshine — Director: Vittorio De Sica, 1946
  3. Pixote — Director: Hector Babenco, 1981
  4. Man With a Movie Camera — Director: Dziga Vertov, 1929
  5. The Saragossa Manuscript —  Director: Wojciech Has, 1965
  6. Once Upon a Time in the West —  Director: Sergio Leone, 1968
  7. Late Spring —  Director: Yasujiro Ozu, 1949
  8. Nil by Mouth —  Director: Gary Oldman, 1997
  9. The Iron Gate (Cairo Station) — Director: Youssef Chahine, 1958
  10. Apocalypse Now — Director: Francis Ford Coppola, 1979
  11. Spirited Away — Director: Hayao Miyazaki, 2001
  12. Cry of the City — Director: Robert Siodmak, 1948
  13. Faust — Director: Murnau, 1926
  14. The Mill and the Cross — Director: Lech Majewski, 2011
  15. My Childhood; My Ain Folk; My Way Home — director: BIll Douglas, 1972, 1973, 1978
  16. Madame de... — director: Max Ophuls, 1953

 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Robert Park

    Great review. Keep them coming Robert.
    It has now become one of my life's ambitions to watch every film that you recommend in this series!

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  • Oh, come on - surely all architects already have their own best films.

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