Take 1 of 3: "Summertime" (1955)

Do I hear a waltz?: Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi at the Piazza San Marco in Summertime.

Three short takes today, each posted separately, in response to three recent discoveries from Criterion via their (soon-to-be defunct) Hulu channel.  Midway through the opening credits of David Lean’s Summertime (1955) I realized that the film was based on the same Arthur Laurents novel that would later become the (underrated) Richard Rodgers/Stephen Sondheim musical Do I Hear a Waltz?  With that realization in mind I worried that I might not buy Katharine Hepburn in the role of a slightly neurotic American spinster who is moved to indulge in a fling with a smooth-talking Italian during a week-long vacation to Venice.  But Hepburn sells it (wouldn’t you know?), as does Rossano Brazzi in the role of her paramour.  It’s ultimately a story about the necessity of sloughing off one’s provincial American mores in order to fully understand Europe—culturally, sexually, gastronomically, and otherwise.  The tone of the film is much different from the musical, so they don’t end up feeling like they’re competing to tell the same story.  Both are lovely.  And if nothing else Summertime’s cinematography, shot in vivid Eastmancolor, will make you long for an Italian getaway.  (But why was this not done in widescreen?)

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