Summertime

 

starstarstarstarHalf

 

 

A Parisian feminist and a farmer’s daughter find love in tumultuous times in the France of 1971.

 

Summertime
When the weather was fine: Cécile de France and Izïa Higelin 

  

The 1970s were a long time ago and prejudice isn’t what it used to be. Nonetheless, Catherine Corsini’s sumptuous, sensual and moving film is not just about intolerance but about the divide that separates the countryside from the city and family loyalty from political responsibility. Here, Carole (Cécile de France) is part of the vanguard of a feminist movement in Paris fighting to bring women equal pay and to legalise abortion. Her boyfriend, Manuel (Benjamin Bellecour), is an understanding figure and, like her, a teacher. However, when she starts spending more time with a fellow feminist, Delphine (Izïa Higelin), than with him, Manuel cannot control his jealousy. But, unlike Delphine, Carole doesn’t care who knows that she is now in love with a woman…

 

In the wake of such films as Blue is the Warmest Colour, Carol and Freeheld, Summertime would seem to have little new to add to the lesbian love story. But under the direction of the veteran filmmaker Catherine Corsini – who is herself lesbian – a whole new range of nuances are opened up. Corsini is more directly concerned with the emotional dynamic between her protagonists, and although the film is set in 1971, the period is merely a backdrop and not an aesthetic. Back then abortion was still illegal in France and women, even more so than now, were second-class citizens. There has also always been a huge divide between the urban and rural sensibility in the country, a dynamic that adds considerable intonation to Corsini’s story. Any compromise in a human relationship is predicated on a number of values, not just one simplistic device of a cinematic concept. Here, Carole and Delphine are divided – and perhaps drawn – by a raft of opposing interests, including their background, their age (Carole is notably older) and their freedoms and restrictions within their respective communities.

 

All this would resonate not a dash had Corsini failed to secure such creditable and spontaneous performances from her stars. De France is a familiar talent to British audiences thanks to her work in films like Switchblade Romance, The Singer and the Dardennes’ The Kid with a Bike – and she is as free and dynamic as she has ever been. But Izïa Higelin is a more surprising choice. In spite of a supporting César nomination for her role in last year's Samba, she is best known as a guitarist and rock singer – but one would never guess it from looking at her here. Whether delivering a calf or riding a tractor, she is every inch the farmer’s daughter. And together, be it on the streets of Paris or in the intimacy of a farmhouse bedroom, the actresses create a joyful, uninhibited improvisation that is incredibly touching to behold. We believe the love. And love it is, a passion that manages to flourish in spite of the discrimination of a society shackled by convention. And when the ‘real world’ closes in, the pain becomes so much harder to witness.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Cécile de France, Izïa Higelin, Noémie Lvovsky, Kévin Azaïs, Benjamin Bellecour, Jean-Henri Compère, Bruno Podalydès.

 

Dir Catherine Corsini, Pro Elisabeth Perez, Screenplay Catherine Corsini and Laurette Polmanss, Ph Jeanne Lapoirie, Pro Des Anna Falguères, Ed Frédéric Baillehaiche, Music Grégoire Hetzel, Costumes Jürgen Doering.

 

Chaz Productions/France 3 Cinéma/ Artémis Productions/Solaire Production-Curzon Artificial Eye.

105 mins. France/Belgium. 2015. Rel: 15 July 2016. Cert. 15.