David Lean's 1955 romance, restored by the BFI

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 4


Summer Madness


This is a sunny, souped-up Brief Encounter with sultry southern European passions bubbling up to supplant the painful English reserve of the latter. The plot is simple?an American spinster (Katharine Hepburn) travels to Venice, buys a goblet from a silky-tongued antiques dealer (Rossano Brazzi), and ends up tumbling into a passionate affair with him.

Lean was never supposed to have liked actors much, but he coaxed a beautifully nuanced performance out of Hepburn, defiant one moment, small and lonely when she thinks no ones’s watching. The suave Brazzi is everything she both wants and wants to run a mile from, and he’s confident her veneer of frostiness is no match for his unabashed sexuality. Fireworks both literal and metaphorical result. Venice itself is as big a star as the actors, and the architecture, canals and lagoon never looked more ravishing than in this restored Eastmancolor print. It’s a movie that deserves to be a lot better known.