Marco Sperelli is a teacher, he is divorced and he is sent to work in Corzano, a town near Naples. The first day of work he finds in the school only the school-caretaker and few girls and boys in the class-room. He goes out looking for them and he discovers then a wretched life led by the boys and the girls of Corzano. A life in which only power and violence are worth respecting. Sperelli tries to teach something different but he gets their respect only by slapping Raffaele, on the way to became a camorrist. His presence and his work, however, disturb too many persons and he will be transferred.Written by
Baldinotto da Pistoia
In this truly delightful, if formulaic, Italian film, we get a portrait of an Italian school teacher from the north of Italy who is mistakingly assigned to a grammar school in a town outside of Naples. There he meets all sorts of opposition as an alien invader with the strangest of ideas: respect for kids and a passion for teaching.
The school is called De Amicis, which the locals mispronounce, and is named after Italy's great author of the children's classic CUORE. He starts out his career here by literally dragging all the kids to school. They prefer to work to bring in extra liras or else flirt with the law in black market or other illegal operations. Little by little this Italian Mr. Chips gains the confidence of the kids and their respect, genuinely teaches them, and shows concern for their personal problems.
And what charming kids they are! In fact that charm is part of the film's major flaw: its contrived and relentless use of cuteness, in the selection of the young performers, in the resolution of the plot.
There's the little girl who is always on the teacher's side asking "Can I tell you something intimate and personal?" There's the chubby kid Nicola who must have his periodic brioche (croissant) during the day, the little boy who sleeps in class because he works at night, the poor girl who must care for her infant sibling because dad is always drunk, the delinquent kid who is in trouble with the law. And yet, despite the obviousness, it wins us over.
Paolo Villaggio as the teacher Marco Tullio Sperelli is nothing short of marvelous, but the movie belongs to those sweet-faced kids...who are forced to recite so much obscene and raunchy dialog they would probably never utter in reality.
As a teacher of Italian I have shown this film to high school students and they invariably lap it up. It is good for a discussion of the perennial north-south conflicts in Italy, an issue that the obnoxious thug of a school custodian and the arrogant principal constantly bait the good-intentioned Sperelli with. An interesting aspect of the film missed by American audiences reading subtitles is the humor generated by the difference between the dialect spoken by the locals, including the kids, and the standard language of their teacher from the north. It's a difference that becomes nicely bridged by the end of this improbable but likable movie. The original title IO, SPERIAMO CHE ME LA CAVO means "As for me, let's hope that I survive" and is the final line of bad-boy Raffaele's composition for the teacher who has won him over despite his resistance, because he took the trouble to help his sick mother get to the hospital. It was also the title of the book the film was based on. The American distributor's title CIAO, PROFESSORE is much better. The film was directed by Lina Wertmuller and is much more appealing than her overblown and more famous movies like SWEPT AWAY and SEVEN BEAUTIES.
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