[Film Review] Summertime (1955)

Summertime poster

Title: Summertime
Year: 1955
Country: USA, UK
Language: English, Italian
Genre: Romance, Drama
Director: David Lean
H.E. Bates
David Lean
based on Arthur Laurents’ play THE TIME OF THE CUCKOO
Music: Alessandro Cicognini
Cinematography: Jack Hildyard
Katharine Hepburn
Rossano Brazzi
Isa Miranda
Darren McGavin
Mari Aldon
Jane Rose
MacDonald Parke
Gaetano Autiero
Jeremy Spenser
André Morell
Rating: 6.6/10

If you’re a young royal princess, you can reap a gleeful fling in Rome with nothing to worry except for paparazzi’s cameras, like Audrey Hepburn in William Wyler’s ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953); but for another legendary Hepburn, Katharine, who plays Jane Hudson (the namesake of Bette Davis’ Baby Jane in Robert Aldrich’s WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? 1962) in this completely shot-in-Venice wanderlust abettor directed by David Lean, her Venetian holiday is not all that glamorous like the locale in its Technicolor beguilement.

Jane is an American secretary from Ohio, middle-aged and unmarried, the vacation is a once-in-a-life-time adventure for her (not just monetarily speaking), in a certain degree, as if she is looking for something, or some reason to live on, there is no complemented background story about her character, but she is the almighty Hepburn, even acting against nobody but herself, she can elicit sympathy with just one single expression, a strained twitch on her face, or a look betrays her smouldering despair.

The exotic flirtation is a standard configuration under such circumstances, here comes Renato de Rossi (Brazzi), a dapper Italian who is the owner of an antique shop in Venice. Mutual attractions spark spontaneously, but the romance must undergo a more tortuous progress to permit Jane to lower her bars, she has to accept the ravioli and forget the beefsteak (can you conjecture the subtext even if you haven’t seen the movie yet?), on the condition that she could hardly endure the loneliness, which has been mercilessly amplified for a partnerless tourist, in a city like Venice.

What could happen between Jane and Renato? As in the scene where Renato is trying to reach a floating gardenia, their denouement is foreshadowed and in Lean’s slick illustration, it recurs to hone up the climatic arrivederci. An interlude of both sides, Hepburn bolsters up steadily as the emotional core of the film, and Brazzi charms, confronts, coerces and unyieldingly courts the balking Jane to a sweet surrender, the common pitfalls for a tourist play out a shade too neatly, firstly, questioning the authenticity of the antique you have just purchased; secondly, resisting the persistent hawking from the local, even if he is as cherubic as the boy Mauro (Autiero), you can generously dole out a cigarette, tip him for being a useful guide, but don’t buy anything he is offering, unless he is willingly to give it to you as a parting gift; then finally, doubting the marital status of your charming wooer, and don’t be shock to learn that he is unhappily married. When the summer is vanishing, a real smart girl (in America, any woman under 50 can be referred as a girl, says Jane) should know how to part ways, at least the tears are real, don’t overstay your welcome, it is a great advice to every tourist who needs to find something special to reinforce one’s frame-of-mind, most of the time, travelling only serves to spur us to go back home sooner.

Summertime 1955

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