Sunday, 6 May 2018

La Liceale (5 Stars)

The title of this Italian film, made in 1975, is unbelievably generic. It means "The High School". That's all. And yet I consider it to be the best teen comedy ever made. It was the breakthrough film of Gloria Guida, who was 19 at the time she made the film. She had a highly successful career for eight years, making 27 films from 1974 to 1982. After that she disappeared. I haven't read any articles about the reason for her retirement, but my assumption is that it had to do with her marriage to the successful Italian singer Johnny Dorelli in 1981. I suppose she wanted to put her family first. That's a good motive, but it means that her millions of fans are missing out.

There were four sequels to "La Liceale". Gloria Guida appeared in three of the sequels, but as a different character. In "La Liceale" she plays a girl called Loredana, but in the sequels her name is Angela. The German releases of the sequels attempt to create continuity by changing her name to Loredana in the dubbing. That's a strange thing to do, but it isn't the worst things the crazy Germans did. They combined the five Liceale films with six other unrelated films, making it a series of eleven films. That makes me want to despair.

Even though Gloria Guida plays the lead role in this film, the real star of the series is Alvaro Vitali, shown in the photo above. He is the main character in all of the sequels. My initial impression was that he's imitating Zachi Noy in the Israeli teen series "Lemon Popsicle", but that can't be true. "La Liceale" was made in 1975, but the first Lemon Popsicle film wasn't made until 1978. Could Zachi Noy have been imitating Alvaro Vitali? Somehow I doubt it, but the resemblance between the two in their appearance and mannerisms is uncanny.

"La Liceale" is a work of genius, but the sequels fall flat in comparison. The reason it stands apart is its mix of genres. All five films are high school comedies, but "La Liceale" is also a coming-of-age drama.

17-year-old Loredana is a virgin, unlike her best friends Monica and Lucia. This doesn't mean that she's shy. On the contrary, she's the most provocative girl in her class. She enjoys her virginity. She considers herself untouchable, and that gives her a feeling of power. The boys in her class desire her, the teachers desire her, and every man she passes in the street desires her. For Loredana it's all a game. She teases her classmates Thomas and Billy, stripping naked in front of them and running away when they get excited. In class she lets the teachers look up her skirt, because she finds it amusing that they're too flustered to concentrate on the lesson.

The film contains a few shots like this, where the camera films an embarrassed young man through Loredana's legs. The camera angle says more than a thousand words about the power that Loredana enjoys.

But as I said, this is a coming-of-age drama. Loredana finally loses her virginity, but only by giving up her power. She sleeps with an older married man. She loves him, but he's only using her. Maybe it was wrong for her to lose her virginity after all? That's something each viewer has to decide for himself.

The film has other sub-plots, such as the reconciliation of Loredana's parents after they've been living separated for over a year. I shan't go into that here, but it's details like that which make "La Liceale" a masterpiece.

I bought the German edition of "La Liceale" on DVD more than 10 years ago. If you want to buy it now you'll have difficulty, unless you can speak Italian. You can buy it from Amazon.IT in Italian only. The German DVD that I bought is now out of print and the film can only be bought as part of an extortionately priced 11-film box set. In America it was released on VHS tape as "The Teasers" but has never made it onto DVD. If you really want to see it you'll have to hunt for an illegal download copy. Good luck!

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