Part 14 – Ciao Professore, Golden Door and Il Postino
This week we place the spotlight on three movies of the Italian Cinema, Ciao Professore, Golden Door and Il Postino.
Ciao Professore is a 1994 comedy that provides audiences with insight into a disturbing world. Directed by Lina Wertmuller, this film looks at the relationship between teachers and students.
Paolo Villaggio plays Marco Sperelli, a northern Italian teacher sent to the southern Italian town of Corzano to teach third grade. When he arrives at his classroom, only three of his 15 students are there. Marco proceeds to find his students, who are either living on the streets, working or at home.
As Marco gives his students hope, he develops a trust with them as well. By the end of the film, not only have the students been changed for the better, but so have their families and the caring professore himself.
The comedic aspect of this film is found in the characters, including the children who use raw language in a humorous way. While you’ll be laughing during your viewing, you’ll also be exposed to a strong plot based on unfortunate real life events.
Unlike the comedic Ciao Professore, Golden Door presented by Martin Scorsese and directed by Rome’s Emanuele Crialese, is an exceptional example of contemporary Italian filmmaking. Golden Door is a classic immigrant story of a Sicilian man driven by dreams who embarks on a journey to the United States to make a better life.
Salvatore Mancuso, portrayed by Vincenzo Amato, is a poor widower who leaves his farm and all his belongings in his native Sicily when he boards a steamship bound for New York. On board, his passions are ignited by a beautiful and mysterious Englishwoman, Lucy (Charlotte Ginsbourg). The Old World collides with the New World as Salvatore and Lucy survive a perilous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, finally disembarking at Ellis Island, the “Golden Door” to the United States.
Upon arrival in New York, the couple discovers that their fate in America lies in the hands of the American customs officers. Salvatore and Lucy are subject to quarantine and must submit to numerous tests in order to be allowed into the country of their dreams – where their lives will unfold according to their respective destinies.
This classic tale is just one example of the collective sagas of so many immigrants who reached the New World through Ellis Island. Featuring provocatively authentic cinematography with direction from one of Italy’s best modern filmmakers, this educational epic film should not be missed by any Italian American – through the images and words of Golden Door, we will discover our own immigrant roots, our own family histories and the origins of our people’s values and traditions.
The third film in this week’s recommendations is Il Postino, a 1994 Italian film directed by Michael Radford and Massimo Troisi. The film tells a fictional story in which the real life poet Pablo Neruda forms a relationship with a simple postman who learns to love poetry. Writer/star Massimo Troisi postponed heart surgery so that he could complete the film. The day after filming was completed, he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Set in the year 1950, Pablo Neruda, the famous Chilean poet and his wife are exiled to a small island in Italy for political reasons. On the island, a local resident, Mario Ruoppolo (Massimo Troisi), dissatisfied with being a fisherman, is hired as a temporary postman with Neruda as his only customer. Mario soon enlists Pablo’s help as he writes love letters and poems to a beautiful village girl. Eventually, the two are married, but the film soon turns as Neruda is permitted to return to Chile and Pablo and his wife Beatrice expect a newborn.
The postman and the writer are separated by distance and years go by with little correspondence. The touching and brilliant final scene should not be revealed in this commentary, but suffice it say that only those with the coldest of hearts could refrain from shedding a tear.
Troisi received posthumous Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. Furthermore, producer Mario Cecchi Gori also received a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The film was also nominated for Best Picture; Best Director (Michael Radford) and won the Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score.
Although the three films are of different genres, both Ciao Professore, Golden Door and Il Postino will leave you with an appreciation for modern Italian filmmaking, proving that the art has not been lost with the times.