Vittorio De Sica

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Lindsay Anderson

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What is it about these Italian pictures which makes the impression they create so overwhelming? First, their tremendous actuality, second, their honesty, and third, their passionate pleading for what we have come to term the humane values. The uses of adversity are once again demonstrated: lack of money has made it necessary to shoot on real locations, against backgrounds which themselves forbid the phoney and the fake. But it is chiefly the impulse of generous and uncompromising emotion which gives to Sciuscia, as to the [Roberto] Rossellini films, a force unknown to the Warner heavy…. [The] setting of Sciuscia is contemporary, and … it has no respect for the old lies, the safe conventions. It is the story of two shoeshine boys loose in "liberated" Rome—Rome liberated not only from Fascism but also from order and security. It is the boys' highest ambition to own a horse of their own; in contriving to get hold of enough money, they become party, all but innocently, to a black market deal. They are caught by the police and, since they refuse to implicate their friends, sent to prison as juvenile delinquents.

The atmosphere of the exhausted, disintegrated city is superbly conveyed; the rough, newsreel quality of [the] photography, the sharp cutting, the abrupt naturalism of the acting persuade us that we are watching scenes as they actually take place, people as they actually are. This in itself is enough to make Sciuscia an exceptional film. But with the story's development it seems to attain another degree of excellence; the film acquires a real significance. The friendship of Giuseppe and Pasquale is an affair of innocence—the boys are never sentimentalised, but they are shown, for all their acuteness, as innocents, with innocent love, candour and trust. By contact with the world we see these qualities perverted and finally destroyed…. [When the boys are sent to prison] Sciuscia becomes a tragedy.

The prison scenes, persuasively detailed, are austere and horrifying; but the agony is never piled on—the director has rightly felt that the thing in itself is agonising enough…. The climax may be described as symbolic …, but it is the true kind of symbolism, implicit in the material, growing naturally out of what has gone before.

Comparison with the other Italian pictures is inevitable. Sciuscia is as good as either of the two Rossellini films [Rome, Open City and Paisa], perhaps better: it is tighter, firmer in structure, with no less honesty, but more courage…. Vittorio de Sica's direction is sensitive and straightforward, with some charmingly lyrical touches at the beginning, where they are not out of place. (pp. 38-9)

Lindsay Anderson, "Film Reviews: 'Sciuscia'" (reprinted by permission of the author), in Sequence, No. 4, Summer, 1948, pp. 38-9.

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Richard Winnington