"Summertime" hits Charles' revival series

A David Lean-Katharine Hepburn classic is restored

  • Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi in "Summertime."
Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi in "Summertime."
May 28, 2010|By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun

After critics flayed him for the swoony lyricism of "Ryan's Daughter," David Lean said he could have justified that film's picture-postcard love imagery by having a priest tell the heroine that she was "seeing the world through rose-colored glasses."

And why not?

A similar strategy had worked niftily for Lean before, in the elegant 1955 romance "Summertime," playing this weekend in a restored print at the Charles. In the opening scene, Lean depicts a single, 40ish woman, Jane Hudson ( Katharine Hepburn), who is unable to contain her excitement as her train enters Venice. She's been poring through a booklet titled "Venice — City of Romance." And Venice, City of Romance, is just what Lean gives her: gondolas and cerulean vistas and salmon-sunned twilights; an antiques store out of Henry James; plazas, canals and alleyways filled with mystery and erotic promise; and a dazzling fireworks display to salute her first night of love.

As Hudson nurses her vague hopes that something marvelous will happen, and eventually melts into a brief liaison with a handsome shopkeeper (Rossano Brazzi), Lean collaborates graciously and sensitively with Hepburn. He taps her natural force, but he also focuses and shapes it. There's a ruminative rapture to the movie's portraits of its star. Decades after you see it, you remember Hepburn waiting at a cafe for her tardy lover, her glittering eyes darting about but ultimately seeming to look inward. She doesn't betray any consciousness of her own attractiveness. That's part of the beauty of "Summertime."

David Lean's "Summertime" plays Saturday at noon, Monday at 7 p.m. and Thursday at 9 p.m. at the Charles (1711 N. Charles St.).

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