Summer Night [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (17th September 2017).
The Film

Fulvia Bolk (Flash Gordon's Mariangela Melato) is a highly successful post-industrial industrialist, meaning that she has discovered that there is more money to be made in saving the Earth than in destroying it. Dedicating her leisure time to ecological causes, she has also formed a small private company to "clean the world of shit" by abducting terrorist Giuseppe Catana (Lamerica's Michele Placido) to send a message out to other kidnappers for profit as well as to recover with interest the roughly one hundred million lire that her industrialist colleagues have paid terrorists in ransoms for their love ones. Hiring one-eyed, one-armed, one-footed blitz expert Salvatore Cantalamessa AKA Turi (Good Morning, Night's Roberto Herlitzka) to undertake the highly illegal operation, she has Catana captured in a raid on his island and spirited away to her summer villa on an inaccessible island off the coast of Sardinia. Jetting off on vacation, Fulvia leaves it to Turi to break Catana with two weeks of isolation only to return to find him emaciated from fasting and being forcibly fed through IVs and has him moved up a more idyllic prison in the villa's open air solarium and well-fed. Turi is puzzled by Fulvia's leisurely approach to the kidnapping and ransom, but she reveals that the operation is about more than just money, but as a response to the kidnappers, the public, and the media who all made she and her wealthy ilk look foolish and incompetent when they were at the mercy of kidnappers, to "put them in their place" and make them once again "respect and fear the ruling class." Speaking to Catana through a loudspeaker installed in his cell or directly to him while he is blindfolded, Fulvia is incensed at his continued defiance, his vulgarity, and his resistance her continued belittling of his revolutionary ideals. Fulvia is also put off by his requests for sexual release, but surprisingly relents to his request and has Turi hire two whores for a secret assignation. When Fulvia takes the place of one of the girls and joins Catana in bed, the balance of power shifts; but ultimately to whose advantage?

"The director of 'Swept Away' will sweep you away once more," or so U.S. distributor New Line Cinema hoped when they released Lina Wertmüller's Summer Night to American screens in 1986, but this more light-hearted, more comedic, less grotesque, rehash of the former film's sexual politics failed to have the same impact with the public; that said, it is still one of Wertmüller better latter-day productions and, at its best, actually funny even if it is not terrible thought-provoking. Melato's Bolk is once again an opinionated wealthy woman, but this time she is not the industrialist's wife but an industrialist herself who has found a way to profit off of ecology. She believes that the rich are fundamentally better than the poor ("We work, we get busy. We built, we risked! We are the economic miracle! Fiat, Azzurra, Fellini, Valentino, we are the "made in Italy") and entirely dismissing those who labor. She believes revolutionaries are those who do not want to work or were unsuccessful: "If Stalin had opened an appliance factory and Lenin, a hotel chain, you can bet they'd be millionaires. They didn't trust in themselves or work. So they settled for a revolution." Catana is not exactly a people's hero; too bourgeois to be a Communist, he is a bandit living large, actually wealthier than her as she discovers that his disheveled clothes are actually Valentino fashions down to his underwear, his dog chains were made by Bulgari, and she owns the same coat as he. Their first sex scene is not an act of force but it does depend upon deception on her part, and a blindfolded Catana tells her that, whether she is his captor or a whore she has paid for, it is Fulvia that he is screwing either way. Fulvia is a "ball breaker" (not only belittling Catana but also challenging Turi's manhood in terms of his covert ops accomplishments when he initially turns her down on the grounds of the project's illegality) who claims to have vulgarity but not sees it as her privilege as a "lady" to use it in the presence of her underlings and resorts to it when incensed by Catana. Their continued pursuit of common ground through their loins can seemingly only exist in this Eden, not an uncharted island as in Swept Away but a "perfect, inaccessible, technological paradise, of maximum security." Reality comes in the form of Turi – jealous and masochistically attracted to Fulvia to the amusement of his own underling Miki (Wertmüller's nephew Massimo Wertmüller, A Night Full of Rain) – with news of the negotiations with Catana's gang, and the next step in their relationship in the real world once again depends upon an act of faith of one in the other. The ending, this time around, favors escapism over devastation, playing out like a mainstream romantic comedy. The incredibly ornate production design of Wertmüller's husband Enrico Job (Blood for Dracula), the wardrobe of Valentino (not only in their style but the use of contrasting colors in the costume choices of Melato and Placido), the island villa setting, and the richly colorful and luminous photography of Camillo Bazzoni (Man, Pride and Vengeance) distinguish the film from other more conventional works of eighties Italian softcore erotica even as the scoring of Pino D'Angiò and Lello Greco vacillates between seventies Euro lounge and eighties sax and synth. Italian genre cinema regular John Steiner (Caligula) makes a brief appearance as Fulvia's lover (who appears to be just as wealthy but treated just as functionally by Fulvia as anyone else) in a scene that name-checks 9 1/2 Weeks.

Video

Released theatrically with English subtitles under the full title Summer Night with Greek Profile, Almond Eyes and Scent of Basil by New Line Cinema during their more artistically daring pre-A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise days when their pick-ups mixed the grindhouse (The Evil Dead, Slave of the Cannibal God,Polyester, The Streetfighter) with the arthouse (The Marquise of O, Lulu the Tool, Despair, Ugly, Dirty, and Bad), and then on VHS by International Video Entertainment, Summer Night did not reach American DVD until Koch Lorber's 2006 DVD which presented the film in an anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen transfer with optional English subtitles and nothing in the way of extras. Kino Lorber's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen Blu-ray is similarly barebones but represents a substantial upgrade from the earlier master. The blue waters are crystal clear, the fabric of Melato's Valentino dresses shimmers, the textures of the villa's stone walls, statuary, and flora have a tactile feel, skin tones are warm without being skewed, the actors tight close-ups retain their appeal even as close-ups reveal both flaws and cosmetic make-up, and one shot that looked incredibly murky as Melato's sheer flowered black robe comes between the screen and the kissing lovers becomes startling in high definition as the flowers are revealed to either be treated with glow-in-the-dark paint or luminously backlit.

Audio

The sole audio option is an Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track that is free of any obvious flaws, with the pointed dialogue delivered as boldly as the score. Optional English subtitles translate all of the song lyrics, adding an additional dimension to the narrative (perhaps unsubtly so) that might not have been apparent to English-speaking audiences (one wonders if these were also translated on subtitled prints).

Extras

Extras are limited to the trailers for the Itailan (2:53) and subtitled American (1:48) releases of the film, as well as Italian (2:48) and English (2:53) theatrical trailers for Swept Away, the Italian trailer for Love & Anarchy (3:15), the Lina Wertmuller Repertory Film Series (1:04) of which these films are part, and Valerio Ruiz's documentary Behind the White Glasses (1:42). A short booklet by Simon Abrams discusses the production circumstances in which the film was made - during Wertmuller's production deal with Penta Film (a company jointly owned by Mario & Vittorio Cecchi Gori and Silvio Berlusconi) amidst the bankruptcy and consolidation of other media companies - and offers an appreciation of the film's humor and its politics.

Overall

In rehashing familiar elements from her oeuvre, Lina Wertmüller's Summer Night may not have Swept Away viewers upon release, but it is still worth seeing.

 


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