Veronica and Her Dunce (1958) - full transcript

A careless mother hires a young tutor to bring up her son's marks, as bad in mathematics as in French language. The young woman tries to teach the boy the easiest things in the curriculum, as well as some manners. She fails, faced with a puzzling logic in the boys' answers, and her tight new shoes. Alone at last, the boy picks up his rubber ball - to sleep on it.


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Get moving!

Come on.

The plate.

- Hello, Miss.
- Hello, Madam.

- Was it easy getting here?
- Very easy. But please forgive...

It's 5:00 on the dot.
You're right on time.

Please come in.

- Here's where you'll work.
- Lovely.

This is his room.
You won't be disturbed.

Please sit down.
Take off your coat.



- Would you excuse me?
- Certainly.

Let's go.

I'm coming.

And no showing off.

Here's the rascal.
Your work's cut out for you.

Go on. Say hello.

- Hello... Miss.
- Pleased to meet you.

Won't you sit down?
I'll take your coat.

Sit down.

Just so we're agreed:

Make him do the work.
Don't do it for him.

Don't go easy on him.
Check all his assignments.

Give her your notebook.

He'll claim he has no homework,
but don't believe it.

Don't be afraid to be strict.

If he doesn't do the work himself,
he won't learn a thing.

You hear that?
Don't give me that dumb look!

The older he gets,
the sillier he is.

I'll leave you.

Please be strict with him.

Harsh, even. Very harsh.

What's your homework tonight?

Check the notebook.

Can't you write any neater?

Math, geography...


What's this?


What's the most urgent?

I dunno. Math.

"Arithmetic. Page 65,
180 through 185."

- Have you looked at it?
- No.

Hurry up, get your book.
What are you waiting for?

Come on.

What are you doing?

Hurry up.

What page?

Oh, right. Page 65.

"Dividing fractions.
To divide a number by a fraction..."

- Quiet down.
- It's my pen.

Well, pens aren't toys.

You don't need to write right now.

Number 180.

Here. Read.

- "To divide a number by a fraction..."
- Faster!

"...multiply the number
by the fraction's reciprocal."

- Read it again.
- Why? I've got it.

- You already knew it?
- No, but I've got it now.

"To divide a number by..."

"...a fraction,
multiply the number by..."

By what?

- I dunno.
- By the fraction...

- Right, by the fraction.
- No! The fraction's re...

The fraction's reciprocal.
You understand?

The fraction's reciprocal.

Right. The fraction's reciprocal.

You don't seem too sure.

Let's do an example.
Quick! Pencil and paper.

- Do you have scrap paper?
- I have a blackboard.

- Slowpoke! We're wasting time.
- But you said...

Sit down.

Hurry up and write.

I don't know... write a number.

I dunno.

Write the number 2.

Now think of a fraction.

- I dunno.
- It's not that hard!

How about...

One half. One over two.

Now divide.

Two divided by 1/2.
What do you do?

- You mul...
- I multiply.

Right, but you multiply by...

Come on! By the fraction's re...

- The fraction's reciprocal.
- Then do it.

Do you know
what "reciprocal" means?

Equals 2 multiplied by 2 over 1.

What do you do with the 1?

- I dunno.
- Stop saying, "I dunno."

- But I dunno.
- You cross out the 1.

Go on. Cross it out.

Always cross out the ones.

Sure, it's just a one.

Sometimes. But other times
they're very important.



It's too long to explain.
Let's keep going.

2 times 2 over 1 makes?

2 times 2!

I dunno. Four?

Of course. Understand?

What do you mean, "no"?

You said there's no point
in understanding it.

I never said that.

About crossing out the one.

We'll go back to that
when we have time.

You understand how we divide?

Very well. I'll start over.

2 divided by 1 over 2 equals

2 multiplied by 2 over 1

equals 4.

Remember we cross out the 1.


- What are you thinking about?
- That dividing by 2 makes 4.

Not dividing. Multiplying.

- But it's division.
- By a fraction.

To divide, you multiply.

- Fine, but...
- What's the matter?

You divide 2 and get 4.
4 is bigger than 2.

You're right. Wait a minute.

2 multiplied by 2 over 1... 4. That's right.

- You have a point.
- I'm right, aren't I?

You're right to be surprised.

It's quite surprising.

Of course! It's because...

Just because.


Didn't your teacher explain?


Then just memorize it.

First you said I had to understand,
now I don't. You understand it?

Of course.

It's just difficult to explain.

You'll learn it in junior high.

You don't do arithmetic
in junior high.

They explain it using algebra.

What's algebra anyway?

Don't worry about that now.
Numbers get replaced by letters.


It's just how it is. It's easier.

I don't get it.
Math is really stupid.

You're always doing the opposite.

To divide, you have to multiply.

They teach us one thing
and then change it.

How can we understand?
I know you don't either.

No one understands, especially me.

That's right. Math was invented
just to torture you.

Poor thing.

Come on. Read the next one.

"To divide a fraction
by another fraction, multiply..."


"...the dividend fraction
by the divisor fraction's reciprocal."

You understand, right?


- How's it going?
- Very well.

- I didn't ask you.
- Everything's fine, ma'am.

You can't see a thing in here.

Is he behaving?

Don't fall for his smiles.
Be strict.

I'm going out.

Leave whenever
you think you should.

That's enough now.

- See you tomorrow.
- Goodbye, madam.

Bye, Mom.

Quick now.
Your composition.

- Did you prepare anything?
- No, nothing.

From now on, you'll prepare
a rough draft to show me.

- What if I don't have any ideas?
- Everyone has ideas.

Start reading.

Never mind. I'll read it.

"It's Saturday. You get up and think
about what you'll do that afternoon."

That doesn't sound very hard.

Hurry now.
Tell me your ideas.

I dunno.
I don't have any.

You can't be serious.

I dunno.
What should I say?

- Write something.
- Write what?

- Things.
- What things?

Here's the text.
You have 30 seconds to write.

Go on.

No, I won't say a word.

- Stop it!
- It wasn't on purpose.

Back in your chair.

Your composition.

You expect me to do everything.
It's easy!

Read me the text.

"It's Saturday. You get up and think
about what you'll do that afternoon."

What more is there to say?
They could at least ask a question.

You're such a quibbler.
It's the same thing.

They just want you
to build a framework.

- You know what a framework is?
- No idea.

It's a frame used
for making a tapestry.

That's just an image.

They want you
to develop the idea,

embellish it, embroider it,
make it into four pages.

Why? They asked for two.

Fine, two pages...
instead of two lines.


To develop an idea,
express something personal.

You really have nothing to say?

- No.
- It's not that hard.

I don't know...

It's Saturday.

- What are you doing?
- Writing "It's Saturday."

Well, why not?
You could start with that.

Go on.
Write "It's Saturday."


I get up and I think
about what I'll do that afternoon.

Put the pen down.
Let's get the facts straight.

What do you do in the afternoon?

- It depends.
- Of course it depends on the day.

What did you do last Saturday?

I dunno.
I went roller skating.

There! So now what?

I think I'll go roller skating.

- But how do you think about it?
- Just by thinking.

Describe how you do it.

What do you do
when you're going to skate?

I dunno. I put on my skates
and go to the skating rink.

- And then?
- I skate!

Stay in your seat.

Yes, of course.

Do you like skating?

Of course.

So you think about it.
You're happy to be going skating.

Sure, if you say so.

It's very simple.

Your mother told me
not to make up sentences for you.

You really don't have any ideas?

Do you?

I just gave you one.

Don't you understand?
How? In what way?

It's about your impressions,
not mine.

So you think...

About how I'll go skating.
But you said not to put that.

What do you want me to say?

- Maybe that's not a good start.
- That's what I said.

Let's go back to the beginning.

It's Saturday.
You get up.

Doesn't that give you any ideas?

- You could say the sun...
- My room faces north!

It's Saturday!
Doesn't that give you any ideas?

- Right. It's Saturday.
- I have to tell you everything!

You could say you get to sleep late
because it's Saturday.

No, my parents wake me up
every day at the same time.

Plus the cleaning lady's in a hurry,
and you don't mess with her.

I see. What happens then?

- I bathe.
- And?

- I eat.
- And?

I dunno.
I play with my Erector Set.

But while you're eating and playing,
what do you think about?

- I dunno. What I'm doing.
- Not about skating?

Sure, if you say so.

See? It's easy
to develop an idea.

All that won't fill up half a page.

Add some details.
I can't write the whole thing for you.

I could put any old thing.

Why two pages
when two lines say it all?

- What's the point?
- To learn to write.

One day you'll need
to write a letter or a report.

In letters you say what you think.
Dad says, "Keep it short and simple."

But sometimes longer
is more persuasive.

A speech, for example.

My dad says politicians
never write their own speeches.

- Someone has to.
- Well, it won't be me!

Why learn things we'll never use?

To learn to work.

Work isn't like this stuff.

A ticket collector doesn't have
to rack his brain to punch tickets.

Sure, but what about
everyone else?

Same thing. My dad
spends his time signing papers.

See how well I can forge it?

You're great at useless things.

Let's write the composition together.
Otherwise we'll run out of time.

You can leave anytime, you know.

No, we wasted a lot of time.
I'd rather finish. Go on.

Come on.

I'll manage on my own.

I can always come up
with something.

Anyway, Mom said you shouldn't
stay more than an hour.


Yes, really.

Goodbye, Jean-Christophe.
See you tomorrow.