I call myself a cinephile, but my knowledge of cinema prior to 1960 or so is spotty and incomplete at best. There’s a reason for this though. Generally speaking, I don’t enjoy movies that old. It’s something about the style or content. They just generally aren’t dark enough or un-conventional in their story-telling techniques. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of “classic” films that I love. Casablanca, On the Waterfront, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, or A Streetcar Named Desire. These are all great films that deserve their constant love and adoration. However, for every one of those, there’s a “classic” movie I hate. Citzen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia, Gone With the Wind. I think they’re as over-rated as humanly possible. Well, I think I found a film that falls somewhere inbetween. David Lean’s Summertime isn’t a great classic movie but I also actually still liked it a lot, and it gave me hope that maybe this blog will expose to some more “classics” that I might enjoy.

Summertime tells the story of Jane Hudson (Katherine Hepburn) who is an American tourist spending some time in Venice, Italy. Jane is an aging spinster who is lonely and doesn’t really have anyone in her life. While on her trip, she meets an antiques dealer named Renato (Rossano Brazzi), and they begin a romance. However, conflict arises when Jane learns that Renato is married (although for purposes, separated). The story itself is simple enough and not particularly that interesting, but in what is David Lean’s love letter to the city of Venezia, the beauty of the city combined with the film’s wry humor and the spectacular performances of the leads, the film manages to keep its hooks in you (at least until its extremely rushed ending).

Before this film, I never understood what the hell the big deal was with Katherine Hepburn. My familiarity with her was clips I’d seen from On Golden Pond during old episodes of I Love the 80’s. I just never understood why she was so popular and beloved. I totally get it now. In the role of Jane, she was feisty, witty, intelligent, passionate, and often, hilarious. Her voice sort of irritates the hell out of me and I don’t find her physically attractive in the slightest, but by the end of the film, I just loved Katherine Hepburn. With one performance in one movie that I’m sure isn’t near the top of her best, she won me over. I’m excited to see more. Rossano Brazzi was a gem as well. You can see how he charmed his way into this closed woman’s life. Also in the role of a street urchin who becomes Jane’s guide, Gaetano Autiero, a child, was a riot.

This film’s not great, but it was a cute, romantic love story shot on location in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it was kept afloat by great performances from its two leads. I want to be in Venice right now, among the beautiful canals and to stare up at San Marco’s Cathedral in wonder. I also want to watch more Katherine Hepburn films as soon as humanly possible and see if she can continue to impress me. She was just a delight.

Final Score: B

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