Summertime

A part of this view­ing list: Criterion Collection Spine #22: David Lean’s Summertime.

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I didn’t like this movie. Sure, David Lean, sure Katharine Hepburn, sure Technicolor, sure bor­ing. I think this is one of those films that doesn’t age well in terms of its ac­ces­si­bil­i­ty to au­di­ences. It plays pitch-per­fect to pre-sex­u­al rev­o­lu­tion moral­i­ty for the vast ma­jor­i­ty of the film; at times there are star­tling mo­ments. The word sex is said! In 1955! And the lais­sez faire ex­tra-mar­i­tal af­fair is al­so a bit strik­ing for the time. Perhaps there is a bit of pre­science to the film in this re­gard. However, Hepburn’s char­ac­ter, Jane Hudson is a prob­a­bly-vir­ginal spin­ster in her late 40s who has come to Venice, some­what sub­con­scious­ly, look­ing for a fling. She finds one, but her Akron, Ohio bred pru­di­ty, re­pres­sion of de­sire, and de­fen­sive­ness keep her from giv­ing in for quite a while. The first 40 min­utes or so of the film are filled with her look­ing al­ter­na­tive­ly wist­ful and fright­ened. There re­al­ly isn’t much plot apart from the sought-af­ter gold­en year’s sex romp, al­though there is a tiny bit of pathos at the end when she must leave her Venetian shop­keep­er while she still can.

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Lean’s di­rec­tion ap­pears to il­lus­trate an in­de­ci­sion in re­gard to what kind of film he is mak­ing. Much of the film func­tions as a trav­el­ogue, al­most too touristy, and some of the shots are de­lib­er­ate­ly filmed to re­flect what Hepburn is chron­i­cling on her lit­tle 8mm [that ap­par­ent­ly works in Technicolor!]. Then there are bits of slap­stick with Hepburn’s char­ac­ter, she’s not good at com­e­dy, her mishaps all seem con­trived to be more about Hepburn do­ing com­e­dy ex­cla­ma­tion point, than in­te­gral parts of the film. The ro­mance seems to have the most fo­cus, but apart from one awe­some scene where the Italian dude scolds Hepburn for be­ing prude, it isn’t very ro­man­tic. It prob­a­bly seems so very ro­man­tic for Hepburn’s char­ac­ter though, since she’s so in­ex­pe­ri­enced. The dra­mat­ic episodes are pret­ty facile, too. All in all it seems like the whole pro­duc­tion was just hav­ing a good time film­ing in Venice and wasn’t too con­cerned with film­ing in Venice. The film is ex­tra­or­di­nary in this re­gard. Technicolor was well suit­ed as an homage to the city of Venice. Too bad the sto­ry it­self wasn’t.

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