Summertime (1955)

I was surprised that Katerine Hepburn could bore me. In Davide Lean’s Summertime (1955) she did. Hepburn plays Jane, an American secretary on her dream vacation in Venice. She’s dreamed of this trip for years and has a lot of energy and high expectations. Soon Jane’s pouting because her trip isn’t as idyllic as she hoped. She doesn’t have any horrible mishaps like getting robbed or sick so to me she just needed to look for some alternatives. Maybe she should go out for a day with the American couple who seemed a bit corny, maybe she should go to a different city or get a tour guide over the age of 10 instead of the urchin who looked about 6, had no shoes, spoke English better than a lot of Italian university students and who spoked cigarettes, which Jane gave him. (That was something you wouldn’t see today. Jane didn’t spoke on screen ever, but had a pack and bargained with this ragamuffin for.)

Jane does bump into an handsome Italian, Renato in the Saint Marco’s Square and the next day happens to go into Renato’s shop. There’s clearly some attraction, but Jane’s awfully standoffish despite her severe loneliness which makes it impossible to enjoy Italy.

About half of the film consists of Jane moping, which made it drag. Eventually, Renato pursues Jane, who soon discovers he’s married. At that revelation, Jane wants to end things, but she’s so lonely.


Jane had built this trip up in her mind so much that it was destined to disappoint. When she talks of home, it’s not as though she hates it. We’re not sure why she never married. She does mention going to a real ball as teen so she’s had opportunities for romance apparently.

Renato continues to pursue her and responds with pat answers to questions about his wife and children. Jane could do better. I hoped she’d end things with Renato.

All in all, I found the film dull despite Hepburn’s ability to be clever and energetic.

Blow Up

Blow-Up 12

About as exciting as it gets, i.e. not very

Michelangelo Antonoini’s Blow Up has an intriguing end, but the almost two hours leading up to it were painfully boring. It’s the story of a jaded, nihilistic, rich photographer who happens to photograph what appears to be a couple of lovers in a park. After blowing up the photos he sees what looks like a shooter lurking in the bushes. What’s really going on? The photographer returns to the spot and finds the man’s dead body.

So far that sounds like an intriguing plot. My concise description leaves out the scenes of vapid, sexy girls whose characters are no more developed than a mannequin’s and the occasional dull conversations the photographer has with his agent or the woman in the photos who tries to get them back once and then never follows up when she doesn’t get them.

Everyone in the film is tired. The young people, whether they’re at a concert or having sex appear dead bored with life. A couple of girls practically stalk the photographer hoping to do a shoot and get famous. None of that pans out.

Don’t waste your time. There’s a clip on YouTube of the film’s end which includes a bunch of mimes who play tennis and it’s a clever mini-film on our perceptions. That’s worth a couple minutes. Otherwise, the film is too esoteric for me. I don’t want to spend two hours watching a bored, passive lost generation.

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nebraska film

The bland, flat small town culture of middle America (if you buy into that as a reality) is the setting for Nebraska starring Bruce Dern. Dern plays an old codger who believes he’s won a magazine sweepstakes. He’s intent upon collecting his $1,000,000 in person as he doesn’t trust the mail with that much money. So he starts walking from Montana to Nebraska, the headquarters of this promotion company. His wife and oldest son think he’s lost it and that they should put him in a home. They’re tired of the police picking the old man up on the road to Lincoln.

David, his more sympathetic son, who works at a big box electronics store and whose life is going no where, agrees to drive to Nebraska with his father. What follows is a drive through flat, bleak countryside with humor, sometimes wry, sometimes hokey. As is true of any road movie, the men encounter mishaps. In Nebraska the father wanders off and gets hurt. They then decide to spend a few days with family in small town Nebraska. The wife and oldest son, who were dead set against this trip, show up for a visit too.

When I worked in Hollywood, I met so many people who viewed their hometowns with disdain. It seems like that feeling fills Nebraska. Now I’m sure there are hokey, drab losers in Montana and Nebraska, not everyone fits this stereotype. I know people in both states, one from a tiny town in Montana and they can be educated, witty, and adventurous. So this reductionist version doesn’t do much for me.


It’s dull to watch even “beautiful losers” for two hours or more. What is the point? Now this movie didn’t bore me, but it did drag and it’s not a must see. I’m glad I just paid $5, any more would irk me.

Nebraska has some good jokes and touching moments but it minimizes the strengths of the people and places it shows. The black and white cinematography reminded me a bit of Ozu or the photos by Dorthea Lange, but not as good.

Bruce Dern does a capable job as the cantankerous father, whose past keeps popping up, but most of the other characters are so one dimensional. It was rather weird how many of the townsfolk talked in long paragraphs to people they didn’t know at all. I can’t see this as earning many awards, though it’s been nominated. Go figure.