Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Watching Summertime, you can see the bridge being formed for David Lean's venture from small black and white dramas to massive widescreen color epics. The film has the intimacy of something like Brief Encounter, yet it has the visual magnificence of his later work (mainly because the movie is set in Venice, showing us the romanticism of the city perhaps greater than any other film). And guess what his next project was? The Bridge on the River Kwai. I think that makes Summertime a really interesting film when seen within the context of this great director's career. But on its own the movie's just okay, a somewhat boring romance involving Katherine Hepburn and a suave Italian gentleman that lacks both the moral intrigue and the verbal poetry of the similar Brief Encounter. But it does look tremendous, as Lean, without too much flair, essentially gives a visual tour of Venice, as we learn how the city and its people work. And though the romance at the center of the film disappoints, Lean does pepper the story with other nice bits, such as the spirited little Italian kid who serves as Hepburn's guide, and a pair of exuberant American tourists who keep showing up in the film. Interestingly, this is both a major and minor work in Lean's career, though unfortunately it doesn't stand on its own the way his best work does.