I watched 'Summertime' and 'The River' as a double feature, so I feel inclined to rate them comparatively...the films were produced within four years of each other, 1951 -'The River'- and 1955- 'Summertime'. Both are generally focused on people outside of their native lands, the latter directed by an Englishman, about an American woman visiting Europe for the first time, whereas Renoir, the Frenchman, showcased...↓
Delightful Hepburn makes Jane seem in turn giddy and wistful, and she captures perfectly that moment when you realize that you're lonely in a crowd, and you don't know what you're really doing there. Lean's trademark in the scenery photography works even in a small movie like this (Venice is like a character), and the only things that mar the film are the occasional cheesy dialogue and jumpy scene transitions.
La Hepburn, a quasi cinquant'anni, mostra, in questo film, le movenze, la fisicità, il sorriso apertissimo di una ragazza. Il film si colloca sulla scia di "Breve incontro" e "Sogno d'amanti" (gli incontri casuali, i treni che separano, i baci scambiati nell'ombra, contro i muri).
While there's a lot of "ugly American" behavior played for laughs, particularly with co-vacationers the McIlhennys, Katherine Hepburn's turn as spinster Jane Hudson is a marvel of conflicting desires that play across her face as her brief encounter with an Italian businessman stirs fear, hope, longing, and trepidation.
The story here is in some ways a MacGuffin, or rather a (sometimes too hectoring) trope, condensed, displaced, for the real drama: the love affair of the camera with a disturbing vision of beauty, Venice, and in that sense the heart of the film is in its first 40 minutes or so, & in the difference/repetition (campanile, doves, gondola ride, verandah of pensione etc) game played with those shots sporadically later on
I agree that there are some cheesy scenes such as "Eat the Rissotto" but on the whole, this is soul capturing movie as it truly captures the loneliness of travelling alone and that of the short term excitement of meeting a stranger with whom to fall in love with. Great scenery shots as well. Must see.