1955; Directed by David Lean on location in Venice. Katharine Hepburn (Jane Hudson) and Rossano Brazzi (Renato De Rossi).
My new favorite David Lean movie, much more intimate than his sweeping epics (think Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago and Bridge on the River Kwai) because I’m in an introspective mood lately. In fact, for the little story, I read that of his movies, it was his personal favorite.
I can understand that now, having seen it. It’s one of the best on-screen romances I’ve ever seen, intimate and real, but more than a romance it’s a movie about loneliness, being alone, and how you carry it with you, and temporarily try to cheat the feeling with company, but are always, ultimately alone. This makes the romantic theme bittersweet (and more palatable) and at the same time truer to life.
Jane Hudson is from Akron, Ohio, and is excited to fulfill her lifelong dream by spending the summer in Venice. She’s what they called in the fifties a “spinster”, but has been single so long, she’s a “1” in a world of “2’s”. Her loneliness is made worse in Venice, where couples abound, almost as a personal affront. Alone…until she meets her dashing gray-haired Italian lover, that is! Brief ‘ethical’ struggle ensues, love happens, movie ends…do they end up together?? ah-ha!
The theme of “one” is found–very subtly–throughout the movie as in the recurring theme of the (single) striking red glass 18th century goblet, in the antique shop window, that brings Jane and Mr. DeRossi together.
David Lean’s touch is in every detail, it’s such a pleasure to see the film of a master. It’s the equivalent to listening to a maestro conduct a world-class philharmonic. You can just sit back and ENJOY. The dialog sparkles, Venice has never been more beautiful, the story is perfect, Katharine gets to do her whole range, from slapstick, to drama, to romance. The movie is an unintended monument to her artistry.
Last but not least…her chemistry with Brazzi is so hot, you forget its a movie. Brazzi is not only an incredibly handsome man (I literally gasped at his first close-up and had to pause the movie), he is allowed to have a rare role in movies, one I haven’t seen since “Bridges of Madison County”. He’s a virile man in love. He’s strong, manly, sensitive, emotional, he’s the desiring lover, in control of his life but abandoning himself temporarily to having lost his mind in love. I can’t remember the last time I saw a man look at a woman so long and so often with unabashed, calm fondness and longing.
The last thing anyone should do is write Summertime off as ” just another chick flick” simply because the centerpiece of the movie is a romance. That would be tantamount to writing off Requiem for a Dream as “just another drug movie” or The Princess Bride as “just another comedy”.
Most memorable line:
Renato De Rossi: Listen to me! Stop behaving like a schoolgirl! What my wife does is not your business. What signora Fiorini does is not your business. You come here and what you do? You hide in a gondola and you sigh “Oh, Venice is so beautiful, so romantic! Oh, these Italians, so beautiful, so romantic! Such children!” and you dream of meeting someone you want: young, rich, witty, brilliant, and unmarried, of course! But me, I’m a shopkeeper, not young, not rich, not witty, not brilliant and married, of course. But I am a man, and you are a woman. But you see…it’s “wrong” it’s “wicked” it’s this, it’s that. You’re like a hungry child who is given ravioli to eat. “No!” you say, “I want beef steak!” My dear girl…you are hungry. Eat the ravioli.
Jane Hudson: I’m not that hungry.
Renato De Rossi: We are all that hungry, Miss Hudson.