Summertime is a travelogue and something more than a
travelogue. I've heard that present day Venice is a dirty city. People
say the famous canals are more like open sewers and the city has lost
its charm. My friends who travel to Italy have advised me to cross
Venice off my vacation list.
But, I've always wanted to see Venice. Thanks to director David Lean
(Great Expectations, Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia) I can
just watch Summertime. In many respects, Lean makes Venice look as
magnificent as the dunes of Saudi Arabia in 1962's unforgettable Oscar
Lean was lucky to be alive when studios backed the expensive Technicolor
process. From the bright opening titles to the romantically restrained
ending, Summertime can always be enjoyed purely as great cinema.
And, Summertime is also a great vehicle for Katherine Hepburn. She plays
a single, middle-aged school teacher named Jane. She's lonely. She
travels by herself. Jane is not a social recluse, but she is timid and
suspicious of men. Summertime is about a woman who wants to conquer her
inhibitions. For once, she allows herself to be seduced by a handsome
local (Rossana Brazzi). The conflict in the film occurs when she
discovers that he's married.
Venice will never look as good as it does in Lean's 1955 movie.
Likewise, Hepburn (b. 1907) is finished as an actress. That's reason
enough to enjoy Summertime.