Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summertime 1955

This is the one about a lonely spinster from Ohio who takes a long planned trip to Venice and immediately falls in love not only with the city but with a dashing and charming antiques dealer. The spinster is played with charm and subtly by Katharine Hepburn who would be starting the vivid 2nd half of her remarkable film career with the playing of this kind of role. One can of course point to 1951’s The African Queen as the real starting point of her spinster roles but as we all know that film turns out to have a happy fairy tale ending, Summertime doesn’t. Her lover is played by the very appealing and good looking  Rossano Brazzi, and there is also a good small supporting cast that adds to the charm of the film. Of course the other star of the film is the city of Venice and David Lean and the great cinematographer Jack Hildyard capture the beauty of this place in vivid and stunning color shots and scenes. This film also marks the end of David Lean’s marvelous character driven small chamber pieces (a good bookend to the film would be his great 1945 film Brief Encounter which has a lot in common with Summertime, including that both of these strong heterosexual love stories were penned by gay men, (but that’s a whole other topic).   After this film Lean would embark on his large scale epics that would consume the rest of his brilliant career with mixed results. I love this film and have made a point of seeing it at least once a year, I simply never tire of it, and I’m always left sobbing uncontrollably at the final scene. Hepburn is perfect in it, and her somewhat at times irritating  mannerisms  tics and tocks have not fully made themselves at home in her acting persona. Watching her deal with her loneliness and self- consciousness as she sits by herself in a café in the Plaza San Marco is for me a gateway into mine own sometimes sadness and loneliness  that’s how good she is in this role. There can be critiques made of the clichéd portrayals of the boring, silly and overbearing American couple who dash about this remarkable city as if they were in some department store, and the overly cute little street urchin who takes Hepburn by surprise  and charms and delights her, but these criticisms are  minor and some might even say that they are needed clichés and who cares when you realize how glorious and captivating this film is. I’ve mentioned the beautiful cinematography by Hildyard (the Criterion transfer is breathtaking) and I would also like to point out the superb music score by Alessandro Cicognini. Also in the cast are Darren McGavin as an American painter and Isa Miranda as the owner of the pensione that Hepburn is staying at. Based on Arthur Laurent’s play The Time Of The Cuckoo that was later turned into the 1965 musical “Do I Hear A Waltz” with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It was a dismal failure and ran for only 220 performances.  One of the ten best films of 1955.   


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