Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Since my dream is to be a globetrotter, I gravitate toward movies that echo this dream lifestyle. Some of my favorite movies involve travelling. French Kiss and Only You are ones that easily come to mind, and they're movies I never get tired of watching for their appetizing portrayals of the cities and countries they are set in.
A new addition has been made to my favorite movies involving travel list. I picked Summertime to watch because it starred Katharine Hepburn, one of my favorite actresses, and I happen to be into old movies at the moment. It also happened to involve travel, like I said, so it had three things that I was looking forward to.
Made in 1955, Summertime is a movie with classic beauty and grace. Whether it be photography, cinematography or superb acting, this movie masters each of those aspects.
The way the camera lingers on the monuments and landmarks of Venice, where the movie is set, makes one feel as if they are experiencing the city themselves. Though it is clear it's an oldie of the 50s, one can still enjoy the classic Venice everyone goes to see, with its old world charm and centuries long tradition of transport by gondola.
Katharine Hepburn plays Jane Hudson, "a fancy secretary," who's a spinster and has saved up for a long time to make the trip to Venice. The movie opens with Jane filming the view from a train entering the city, while striking up a conversation with the man she is sharing a cabin car with.
From the minute we disembark the train, all the way to the end credits, one can almost smell the experience Jane Hudson is having in Venice.
I should add that Summertime is originally a play called The Time of the Cuckoo, and it is written by Arthur Laurents. The movie very much sounds like a play, and intelligently so.
I personally found the story reminiscent of what might have been a trend of the 50s... the older American woman going to either Rome or Venice, and meeting an Italian man, with whom she has an affair. It is very reminiscent of Tennessee Williams' The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (which incidentally is not a play, but a novel by Williams). Of course, Summertime is not as dark-themed as The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, but the basic American woman in an Italian city theme is what makes one remind me of the other.
Jane Hudson, is a spinster and a self-proclaimed "... the independent type. Always have been." In an elusive and intelligently written dialogue, however, Jane Hudson confesses to Signora Fiorini, the Ponsione Fiorini keeper where she is staying, that she came to Venice looking for something that is a mystery even to her. As the film moves along slowly, but with the grace of a gondola, we see what Jane Hudson came to Venice looking for as it unfolds and surprises even Jane herself.
The director intended for the viewer to pay attention to small details. For instance, the way Jane Hudson sees Venice is not the same way that her fellow American tourists, staying in the same hotel see Venice. The older retired couple treats Venice as a place to experience with a minute by minute schedule, missing much of the little things you can't plan ahead for. The younger, newlyweds treat Venice as a honeymoon spot where they only have eyes for each other, failing to see much beyond each other in a city full of nothing but things to see.
Jane, in her loneliness wanders the streets of Venice and befriends a little street boy who guides her through the city.
It might feel as if I have given away a large part of the movie by pointing out its strong resemblance to Williams' story of another American woman wandering the streets of some Italian city all alone. I assure you the two stories are worlds apart in mood and different style and direction. Trust me when I tell you that Summertime holds more than I describe, or could describe. It is simply magnificent.
I feel I have said too much already, so I will quit trying to describe this film. I want nothing more than to draw you, the reader to this movie with my writing in order to experience everything it has to offer in the way of tourism, cinematography, dialogue, comedy (it is hilarious), love, and bitter sweetness.
I promise you a trip to Venice that is so much more.