It is interesting to watch Summertime now, as I am right in the middle of watching the Water Arc of One Piece, and the Straw-hat Pirates are currently in a city that is very much modeled after Venice. So I’ve got both the live-action view of the city, as well as an imagined animated version of it to enjoy.
Summertime is a 1955 film directed by the great David Lean, and stars Katharine Hepburn.
It centers on a woman from America named Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn) who travels to Venice after saving up for the trip. It is a place that she has only dreamed of traveling to, and upon arrival her sacrifice seems well worth it. The city is marvellous and antique. She even meets a couple of tourists from America who are travelling across Europe and have, for the time being, stopped in Venice.
Eventually, however, loneliness begins to settle in as she watches couples interact. It is around this time that she meets a friendly Italian shopkeeper named Renato (Rossano Brazzi). The two slowly begin to grow closer, until it is obvious that Renato is successfully bringing Jane out of her shell with his company. Of course there are twists and turns throughout, such as Renato having a wife and kids that he never told Jane about (even calling his son his ‘nephew’), but in the end what we’re left with is a pretty standard romantic drama where girl meets boy in a foreign land before she has to leave, thus making their romance a doomed one.
Lean is perhaps one of the most well-renowned directors of all time, especially when it comes to large-scaled epics. I’m still relatively new to his work, having only seen Lawrence of Arabia thus far (I have Bridge on the River Kwai taped, though, so chances are high I’ll be viewing that one soon enough), but it seems that his legacy is defined by sprawling epics with masterful cinematography and music. His work in 1955’s Summertime is comparatively far more intimate, but still manages to take advantage of the beauty of Venice.
The movie had some nice shots, and Hepburn did well with her role, but I still found it difficult to connect with the film. It felt fairly generic, which is a shame given the talent that was working on it. I can’t really call it a bad film, though it was certainly a bit disappointing. If you are going to have a film use a generic storyline that is more than fine, but at least gives it something to elevate it above the rest.
Take, for instance, The Mission. Here’s a film that has its share of flaws in terms of story, but the direction, cinematography, music, art direction, and most of the acting make up for it in droves. It is a beautiful film that is very much the sum of its parts. So while I may give it between a 3.5 and a 4 out of 5 because it is not perfect, I still consider it to be one of the most beautiful films that I’ve ever seen.
Lean does fine work in Summertime, but was it enough to elevate the film to a considerable degree? Not necessarily.
The cinematography can be nice, but for the most part it is merely serviceable. Nothing about this film really stood out as being excellent except, perhaps, the art direction. Even then, it is not necessarily difficult to have nice-looking art direction when one’s setting is Venice. Everything in the film was merely serviceable, and in a film with a storyline as wrought-out as this one, that can only result in a finished product that feels underwhelming.
There were certainly some fun moments, especially when it involved the small child with whom Jane interacted with. Lean also made Venice look very enticing (but again… who couldn’t) and I am eager to visit Venice at some point in the future. Summertime also works fairly well as a character study of a woman who can feel the pain of being alone encroach upon her like a virus the more she observes the romantic land of Venice. In that regard, perhaps I’m being too harsh on the movie but it just felt like it was lacking something.
Overall, I did not find this film to be a bad one – just particularly bland.
Maybe I’ll give it another chance in the future, as I have done with many films in the past (and who knows, I might enjoy it more the second time around – I often do so with many films), but I feel no rush in doing so.
2.5 out of 5
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get a certain Lana del Rey song out of my head…