A timeless love story, feminism, and 1970s Paris…
Summertime is a film that will remind American audiences of the recent Todd Haynes’ feature Carol. The two films share many similarities as they are both about an unlikely romance between two women from two different worlds, but they are also alike in the intensity and urgency of their impact.
In Summertime, Delphine (Izïa Higelin) is a young woman in the 1970s who lives on her parent’s farm near Limoges in the Limousin region of central France, where she has always lived. At the film’s outset, her family is encouraging her to settle down and marry Antoine, a boy whom she grew up with. But it is revealed to the audience that she has been involved in an illicit relationship with a village girl, who soon breaks her heart and decides to marry a man. As a result, Delphine departs for Paris, in search of a new beginning and her independence.
It is here where Delphine meets a woman named Carole (Cécile de France) by chance when she saves her from being apprehended by a man who objects to her feminist protest. Carole turns out to be a Spanish teacher and the leader of a group of radical feminists who stage all manner of protests across Paris. Delphine quickly becomes attached to this group of women who preach a gospel of female empowerment, but is disheartened to learn that Carole has a boyfriend, Manuel, whom she lives with. Undeterred, Delphine pursues Carole anyway, and the two begin a torrid affair.
Suddenly, Delphine must return to the farm when her father falls ill and she finds herself torn between a world of tradition and familiarity and a world full of promise and a brighter future. The incredible performances of the two lead actresses and the quietly powerful performance of Noémie Lvosky as Delphine’s mother Monique are what make the film more than just a tale of forbidden love. Corsini has crafted an incredible artwork that manages to convey the passion of a moment and the weight of timelessness and history at once.
The French title of the film was La belle saison, translating to ‘The beautiful season’. It’s true that the film’s summery color palate and skillful use of sunlight, shadow, and nature imagery of the farm captures all of the beauty and warmth of that ‘belle’ time of year. Corsini relies heavily on camerawork that emphasizes the physical beauty of her actresses and the almost ethereal beauty of the settings into which she has placed them. Summertime is a film that will rip you apart inside deceptively, lulling you into comfortably believing in the plot before each time it’s about to take a turn. Ultimately though, Summertime will encourage your sense of hope more than anything else.
Summertime was directed by Catherine Corsini and stars Izï Higelin and Cécile de France. It recently screened in its United States premiere at the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema festival at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Photo credits: Film Society of Lincoln Center.