Eye For Film >> Movies >> Violent Summer (1959) Film Review
Reviewed by: David Stanners
Amid the plethora of distinguished Italian filmmakers who graced 20th century cinema, Valerio Zurlini - since his death in 1982 - seems to have been overlooked by many a modern critic. It is thus fitting, that this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival is paying homage to a man whose work stands shoulder high with the other Italian post-war giants.
After his first major feature film, The Girls Of San Frediano (1955), Zurlini spent three years jobless, due to a reputation that burdened him as a difficult man to work with. During this time he absorbed his country, his people and a culture he had previously felt divorced from. Violent Summer was the product of this hiatus, a love story steeped in acute social observations and profound historical vicissitudes.
Set in the summer of 1943, Mussolini's war effort is crumbling and Italy is plunged into civil war. A group of well-to-do Italians are at a family party. Carlo (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is a young, handsome twentysomething charmer. Well dressed and full of words women love to hear, he flirts and fools around with Rosanna, (Jacqueline Sassard), a gorgeous sultry brunette. Soon, another older lady in her thirties catches his eye. Roberta, (Eleonora Rossi Drago) a recent widow of an heroic naval lieutenant, is struggling to come to terms with her situation. Caught between an empty commitment to a late husband she didn't connect with, old fashioned Italian virtues espoused by her mother and the fresh advances of young Carlo, she ends up making a heartfelt decision, bearing all the hallmarks of the classic war time romance.
Set around the seaside town of Riccione on the Adriatic coast, the fraught love affair begins slowly with Carlo's rejection of one beautiful young dame (Rosanna) for another older, more experienced one (Roberta). Building towards a passionate frisson between the two, we learn that Carlo is a draft dodger, the son of a high-ranking fascist, and that he will soon be forced out of his huge beach house and into the army, as the war reaches fever pitch and his draft deferment has expired. This, fused with Roberta's furtive behaviour towards her disapproving mother and her struggle against clammy social conventions, makes for a thrilling crescendo set on a railway littered with allied bombs and shrapnel.
Violent Summer is not an epic wartime romance. It's a smaller, quieter film, reflecting people's motives, actions and truths. Zurlini's background and appreciation of aesthetics and visuals are obvious. Beautiful people flirting on the beach, a seductive yet haunting musical score and a piercing awareness of what makes people tick inside and outside of difficult socio-political situations, are sufficient testament to Zurlini's own statement: "I have always believed that things made with great sincerity, with simplicity of means and a profound honesty, are those that will remain."
Lets hope he isn't forgotten again.Reviewed on: 20 Aug 2004