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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Summer Night (Blu-ray)
Summer Night (Blu-ray)
Kino // Unrated // September 19, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted November 18, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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Signora Bolk (Mariangela Melato) has what she knows will be a controversial stance: she believes in the moral and intellectual superiority of the rich. She is obscenely wealthy, but she didn't inherit it or swindle it out of anyone else: she earned it, starting a business that helps clean up the garbage drifting in the ocean. And speaking of swindlers and garbage floating in the ocean, she's settled on a new target: Giuseppe Beppe Catania (Michele Placido), who makes a living kidnapping young women from rich families and demanding an expensive ransom. She hires an ex-spy, Salvatore "Turi" Cantalamessa (Roberto Herlitzka), to track Catania down and capture him, where she intends to turn the tables on him by ransoming him for $100m that will go back into the coffers of the rich he stole it from.

Even without the note in the Blu-ray booklet that Summer Night, or Summer Night With Greek Profile, Almond Eyes, and Scent of Basil, was part of an intended thematic trilogy, it would be hard to miss the similarities between it and writer/director Lina Wertmuller's most celebrated film, Swept Away. Both involve a woman played by Melato in a captive situation with a man she detests over differing ideas of class and culture, and both end up unexpectedly shifting into matters of sexual desire. In Swept Away, Melato's character is the captive; in Summer Night, she is the captor. Both find Wertmuller taking the idea of a sleazy or even outright violent man and exploring the attraction her women have to their most repulsive qualities, in an open-ended manner that does not necessarily judge but is bound to raise the viewer's hackles one way or another.

While Swept Away had explosive performances by both of its leads, Summer Night is more unbalanced, with Placido failing to capture the volatile aggression of Giancarlo Giannini. However, very nearly doesn't matter, with Melato turning in a ferociously funny performances as a perpetually incensed, easily-provoked, haughtily self-righteous, and sexually hungry woman. Her blazing eyes and upturned nose are not quite campy, the word suggesting an irony that exists less in Melato's performance than in Wertmuller's view of the way Bolk acts, but they certainly crackle with a high-powered comic electricity that underlines the satire. There is no other way to view her impassioned speech about the virtues of wealth and the upper class but to laugh incredulously, as Wertmuller deftly weaves Bolk's arguments somewhere between sensible and selfish. There is both a horrifying outrageousness to the way Bolk is openly attracted to Catania's "lower" race and "lower" profession, that Melato both embraces in the sense that she leans into the ugliness of it, while also allowing such an earnestness to exist beneath those offensive impulses that it almost seems important to see her indulge them rather than settle for more uninspiring sex with her unremarkable lover.

Although the film is ostensibly more about the relationship between Bolk and Catania, there is a prominent side thread about Bolk and Turi, who is lured out of retirement to help Bolk track Catania, only to find that she is uninterested in taking any of his tactical advice or in treating him with a shred of dignity. This is, of course, because Turi is also attracted to Bolk, and Wertmuller seems to have fun exploring this as simultaneously pathetic and heartbreaking, as Bolk constantly walks all over him for no reason at all, and he sits there and weathers the abuse. Herlitzka, who reads a little like a genetic blend of David Strathairn and John Waters, is especially funny as he plays his impotent rage, peering uselessly at Bolk as she does the opposite of everything he suggests with Catania.

Although Summer Night is funny and the performances are largely entertaining, Wertmuller's overall message about the characters and their contradictions is a bit muddled. Whereas Swept Away was about two characters getting a dose of what the other person put them through and learning something from the shift in perspective, Summer Night reads almost like a parody of that film in which both characters are equally hypocritical and selfish. As one character points out, Catania is actually richer than Bolk, even if he goes about acquiring his wealth without earning it, turning the movie into a philosophical argument between assholes each convinced of their own sainthood. Funny, to be sure, but Wertmuller's skewering of her two leads never quite frames that conflict on anything larger than the complex political and sexual relationship that exists between them. Their battle is entertaining on the surface, but much like the squabbles of the rich in the real world, there's a noticeable gap in the relatability of their concerns and ours.

The Blu-ray
Summer Night, like all of Kino Lorber's Lina Wertmuller releases, features a "dot-matrix"-stylized image from the film, over a single-color backdrop (in this case, orange). The back cover features no pictures at all, just text, and the one-disc release comes in a Viva Elite Blu-ray case with a booklet inside, this one featuring an essay by Simon Abrams, a New York-based critic (and a friend of mine).

The Video and Audio
Of the two Kino Wertmuller restorations I've looked at as of this writing, Summer Night is an improvement on Swept Away's already impressive spit-and-polish. On that release, there appeared to be some minor amounts of inconsistency with the source and a strong teal-and-orange push. On this 1.85:1 1080p AVC transfer, the colors are more accurate (still a hint of teal, but otherwise nice and vivid), the print quality is more consistent (offering striking depth and really pleasing amounts of fine textural detail), and grain appears rich and natural. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Italian track sounds about as strong as one would expect -- the dialogue is dubbed and relatively clean, music is rich and vibrant, and there is not really much in the way of traditional immersiveness that one might expect from a full surround track. English subtitles are also included.

The Extras
Other than the essay, none. English and Italian original theatrical trailers for both Swept Away and Summer Night, an Italian trailer for Love and Anarchy, a spot for the Lina Wertmuller Film Series, and a trailer for Behind the White Glasses are included.

Although the film is hampered by a weak male lead and a slightly alienating conflict, Summer Night gets by on Wertmuller's wicked sense of humor and Melato's fantastic comic performance. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray looks and sounds the best of the Wertmuller restorations so far. Recommended.

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