Summertime (1955) by David Lean
As a lover of Venice, this film has to be on my list. It’s the story of a lonely spinster who achieves her lifelong dream of travelling to Venice. She becomes enchanted by the city and unexpectedly falls in love with Renato (Rossano Brazzi), a handsome antique shop owner. The story is rather thin but that’s not what makes this film magical. Lean manages to capture what all our holiday photos fail to do – the beauty of Venice in the light, its bridges and narrow streets and the reflections in the water. Here it is in glorious technicolour and it has rarely looked lovelier. Katharine Hepburn gives a most moving performance as Jane Hudson, a woman who longs for some kind of connection but feels she is now too old for love. You can feel her heart aching to open up to the new kind of experience the city offers and the possibility of happiness but also sense her fear of rejection and disappointment when she discovers the man she has fallen in love with is married.
The relationship between them is very sensitively handled; nothing contrived or showy, just two people who do not know how long they have together and who may never meet again. I especially love the scene where Jane notices Renato is looking at her as she sits at a café on St. Mark’s Square and also the one where they watch a beautiful sunset together on the island of Burano. And let’s not forget the famous scene where Jane falls backwards into the canal whose filthy waters left poor Katharine Hepburn with eye problems for the rest of her life. I love it because it’s bittersweet and beautiful and seems to contain the essence of summer – a fleeting glimpse of beauty which is over much too quickly.