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4.4 out of 5 stars82
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 9 August 2007
David Lean was one of the greatest film-makers of all time, and to say that this is one of his best is to say that it stands comparison with Brief Encounter, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge on the River Kwai, Doctor Zhivago, Ryan's Daughter...etc...

It's one of his more low-key, intimate films, but there is a kind of epic grandeur in the way it captures Venice's beauty, investing the city with more magic and romance than it has had in any other film.

Katharine Hepburn gives the best performance of her career. At worst she could be monotonous, strident, harsh - but this is her at her best, funny, shy, even heart-breaking at times. So many directors lacked the imagination to find anything in her but the caricture Hepburn, the wilful, caustic persona that became over-familiar and wearisome. Here she gives an unusually layered and sensitive performance - at once an old-fashioned spinster and an excitable young girl finding love for the first time.

Why this film has never been released on any home video format in this country before (in the US, it was one of Criterion's earliest releases), is utterly baffling. No film buff will be disappointed. Forget any preconceptions about this being a frothy, rainy afternoon, throwaway romance. It's a bona fide masterpiece.
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After doing "Pat and Mike" in 1952 with Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn left MGM when her contract ended and starred in the first major production of George Bernard Shaw's "The Millionairess" in London. It was not until 1955 that David Lean persuaded Hepburn to return to films, bringing her to Venice to star in this bitter-sweet love story about a lonely American school teacher and spinster, Jane Hudson, who takes a once in a lifetime vacation to Europe where she meets Renato Di Rossi (Rossano Brazzi), the charming owner of an antique shop. Based on the Arthur Laurents' play "The Time of the Cuckoo," this film creates not only the first but also certainly the most realistic of Hepburn's celebrated spinster roles. Unlike her Oscar nominated performances as spinsters who find love in "The African Queen" and "The Rainmaker," the story of Jane Hudson does not have as many comic moments, although her celebrated fall in the canals of Venice, which ruined her eyes for the rest of her life, is one of those standout moments in Hepburn's career. Because it is more realistic there is more of an element to tragedy to this story than any other of her similar roles. Although Jane falls in love for the first time in her life, there is no hope for a future with Rentao who is married and has a grown son. This is made all the more poignant by Jane's relationship with the cute street urchin Mario (Gaitano Audiero) who becomes her guide through Venice. Together, these symbolic husband and son figures help to bring Jane out of her shell and in the end we know she is a better person for the experience, as painful as it might be. True, this is an old story, but "Summertime" carries it off with a level of technical proficiency and artistic effort way above the norm.
At first consideration you would not think of "Summertime" as being a traditional sort of David Lean film since it is not the type of cinematic epic you associate with the director. But when you see the way the sights of Venice are photographed you know this is the same eye that captured the jungles of southeast Asia, the deserts of Arabia and the winter wonderland of Russia (although credit also has to be given to cinematographer Jack Hildyard). If you will never make it to Venice, this is the film that will bring it alive for you. For 1955 this is a remarkably adult film, which just reaffirms the importance of Broadway dramas in changing the nature of Hollywood. Just in terms of Hepburn's career you can readily see that most of her adult theme films were all originally presented on Broadway (e.g., "Suddenly Last Summer," "Long Day's Journey Into Night," "The Lion in Winter"). However, do not ask me to explain how the actress went from this film to making "The Iron Petticoat" with Bob Hope. But even that legendary debacle (the one Hepburn film I have never seen) did not detract from the importance of "Summertime" in reestablishing her film career as an independent actress. Beginning with this film, Hepburn had a streak of eight films in which she received six Oscar nominations and won her second and third awards. At MGM she had been a dramatic comedienne but during this independent stage of her career she did her far and way best work as a tragic actress.
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on 31 May 2009
I have just watched this fim on Five, and made up my mind that I had to have a copy. Having been to Venice many times, I could totally identify with Hepburn's awkwardness at being alone in such a romantic city, surrounded by couples in love. How good would it be to go in a shop and come out with someone like Rossano Brazzi!! Both actors gave the performance of their lives, and the cinematography of Venice was in a class of its own- I was transported back there.Throughout the film,I could almost feel the sun and smell the place. Absolute masterpiece on the same level as the great love stories such as Brief Encounter.
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on 29 July 2007
Made in 1955. Summertime was made by David Lean, the great British film director, prior to his epics - Bridge on the river Kwai, Laurence of Arabia and Dr Zhivago.It's a simple, straight forward love story and a lovely character piece. Brilliantly acted by Katherine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi. It will probably be too slow for modern audiences.If you like Leans film, Brief Encounter then you'll really like this, if not, best avoid. It's also worth mentioning Jack Hildyards stunning cinematography, which adds another layer to this simple story of an American spinster who goes to Venice and falls in love with an Italian shopkeeper.
All in all a little gem that's well worth discovering.
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on 26 October 2007
This is a beautifully crafted movie. The theme is simple enough but it is beautifully execute with a subtlety than the current crop of movie makers seem entirely unable to muster. On the one hand this is perhaps less damning than it first appears as Lean was a major talent of the first order and Hepburn was at the height of her talent, a real movie star of lasting power which we definitely do not have now. On the otherhand though is seems that Hollywood has been entirely given over to soulless moneymen (& women) who are only looking at the bottom line and that is tragic.

My initial motivation for search this movie out recently, although I had seen it years ago, was the location. Rarely has a location been so beautifully made one of the stars of a movie. Prior to my recent holiday there I watched Summer Madness (to give it its proper British title) and was blown away by the beauty of Venice. When I got there I was not disappointed the place is as beautiful and wonderful as I expected and more. The shop featured in the movie still sell postcards with stills from the movie and to stand on the edge of the canal the Hepburn fell into makes you really feel a connection with the movie.

My recommendation here is to buy the movie and, if you can afford to, take a trip to Venice to see for yourself, but go in early spring or autumn (October in Venice was warm and lovely.

This has become one of my favourite films; I love it!
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on 29 November 2009
If you havent been to Venice....here it is.The film is both a travelogue and love story sprinkled with humour. The approach by train across the water to the city is an unmissable ingredient of a visit, the architecture all the more sensational framed by watery reflection and the lack of vehicles. Possibly a film for the more mature,but in a positive way. Beautiful and poignant, Katherine Hepburn at her best . A grown up love story that doesn't have the predictable ending. An example of life not often portayed: older woman finds love unexpectantly, experiencing the magic of new love usually connected with the young. It shows Venice in all its poetic glory, Marvellous.
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I have waited for this film to come out on DVD for many years. I had been looking for it periodically under the title given on TV (Summer Madness), so I only found it had finally come out on DVD recently.

It features Katharine Hepburn as an American spinster who goes to Venice and meets the utterly charming Rossano Brazzi.

I saw it on TV a long time ago (fortunately I taped it on VHS at the time) and have enjoyed watching it many times. It is a perfect film to watch on a Sunday afternoon; a timeless romance, beautifully directed by David Lean. If you enjoy romantic films, this one will not disappoint.
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on 17 September 2009
I purchased this DVD as I lost my original VHS recording of this film.

I have watched this film time and time again and will never get bored of it. A truly wonderful film with two fantastic leading actors in the eccentric Katherine Hepburn and the dashing Rossano Brazzi. This film will make you fall in love with them both and Italy at the same time.

How I long to return to Venice and explore the locations shown in this film... and perhaps find a little romance too! :)
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on 3 August 2007
.....well, I do! I have to agree with the previous reviewer that it may be a little slow for modern audiences....hang on, I'd say gentle rather than slow. I guess the storyline may have been quite shocking back in the day, but I have seen it on TV just twice, (neither time did I think to record it), and I have to say that Katharine Hepburn is sublime in the role. I felt nothing but complete sympathy for her character who falls so deeply for the married stranger, (Rossano Brassi).
I have scanned Amazon & eBay to find this on DVD for the past couple of years, and now true to form Channel 5 are showing this film on Sunday afternoon - I was going tape it, then drop it to DVD - only to find it is finally being released on DVD the day after!
Yes, I will tape it, watch it again & enjoy it. But I shan't bother putting it on DVD - I've gotta have the commercial release.
Fingers crossed it will have some good extras included.
If you are a sucker for a brlliantly acted romance, (one where you need tissues at your side), then Buy it or Rent it - but whatever you do - don't miss this Gem of a movie!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 April 2016
Although Katharine Hepburn puts in a typically impressive and quite subtle performance as the nervy, lonely American spinster abroad (perhaps seeking romance), Jane Hudson, it is Venice’s stunning backdrop to David Lean’s 1955 film that for me steals the show. The lush colours of Jack Hildyard’s cinematography really can’t help but impress and even though a cinematographer’s job on location in this magical place should probably be regarded as something of a 'slam dunk’, Hildyard does full justice to the location, giving us a whole series of idiosyncratically shot moments (close-ups on gargoyles, Venetian lions, etc) evoking the unique architectural and artistic heritage of the city. The bustling, touristic nature is always, of course, present (it was nearly as ‘bad’ back then as it was last year when I was there!), but Lean also takes us off the beaten track, via some nice touches, as Jane espies a stray cat and then comes to a halt at one of the city’s many, seemingly unavoidable dead-end passageways.

The film’s central narrative, the romance between Hudson and Rossano Brazzi’s’s suave antiques shop owner (of dubious authenticity), Renato de Rossi, takes some time to get going and is fairly conventional when it does. Brazzi is solid enough (though I suspect his 'forced’ English detracts somewhat from the performance), but the acting honours are undoubtedly Hepburn’s, whose vulnerability really connects. Elsewhere, the comedic element of 'small-minded Americans abroad’ is nicely played up by the portrayal of Jane’s fellow pensione (hotel) guests, whilst one of the film’s most engaging (and affectionate) threads is that between the yearning spinster and Gaetano Autiero’s young 'orphan’, Mauro. In addition, there is also a nice cameo from noted Italian actress Isa Miranda as pensione proprietress, Signora Fiorini. The trajectory of the central couple’s developing romance is relatively predictable, but does include some touching (and cinematic) moments, notably that of the elusive gardenia floating down the canal and then (in a reprise of this moment) in the film’s impressive and moving denouement. It’s certainly a film worth catching for fans of Hepburn and (particularly) of Venice.
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