Director Catherine Corsini Starring Cecile De France, Izia Higelin, Noemie Lvovsky, Kevin Azais
French filmmaker Catherine Corsini knows how to speak about love. But not that happy love which has a beautiful and positive ending, but love that, unfortunately, is not capable of standing the test of time. SUMMERTIME is Corsini’s tragic yet incredibly lyrical take on a story of two women falling in love in 1970s France, where harsh canons of old tradition and public scepticism still refused to give way to freedom of self-expression. Her heroines sacrifice everything in order to salvage their relationship only to find out that even the strongest of feelings can fall victim to ruthless indignation from their society. France of the 70’s was not ready yet to accept love of two women, and two women were too fragile to fight the silent battles against their own.
Corsini does make sure she speaks up about such issue, and does so in a unique language of hers. The filmmaker has a distinctive way to patch together words and images; they saturate the screen with visually and narratively stimulating signs but everything still comes together in a smooth, rhythmical dance that envelopes the viewer in every stroke of its movements. With such individual approach, Corsini does not scream for help or mourns the backwardness of her country. Not matter what the ending is, she, first and foremost, celebrates the power of lesbian love that was able to plant its magical seeds amongst all the turmoil and social agitation of that time.
And it is worth mentioning to what extent was 1970s France in a state of a complete internal reconstruction: just like the rest of the world, it was trying to morph in with the influx of controversial thoughts and radical ways of living. Marginalised groups were finally finding a voice and courage to speak up. Youth was moving out from provinces and infiltrating Paris, steadily shaping the city into the hub of riots and insubordination. And, most importantly, women start fighting for their rights and place in society with unprecedented ferociousness and zeal, erasing the stereotypes and creating their own rules.
Against such compelling times we get introduced to Delphine and Carole. Delphine, a newcomer in Paris, leaves her family farm in Limousine and enrols into the University of Paris, seeking salvation from rural stagnation in the country’s tumultuous capital. Carole, a sassy and outspoken Spanish teacher, is a leader of the university’s women’s movement and her normal day includes throwing pieces of meat onto male lecturers and harassing random men on the streets. It is Carole’s insatiable rebellious spirit that makes Delphine fall for her from the first glance. Carole, not sure from the start about her sexuality, falls into the caring arms of Delpine as she cannot help but having strong feelings towards her new acquaintance.
Two women get carried away in their breathtaking romance, which not only makes them discover the sides of themselves that they had no idea about, but which made them finally free against all mental constraints that imprisoned them. Yet all of a sudden Delphine receives tragic news of her father’s illness and is forced to go back home to take control over the farm. Carole follows her lover back home but only to witness how disconnected is rural France from the forward-thinking Paris. No matter how much Delphine and Carole try to hide their blossoming romance, it is impossible to fool everybody. Their romance is derided, tabooed and ready to be exterminated by Delphine’s mother and the rest of the village. Will Delphine succumb to the pressures of her friends and family or will she follow her heart?
SUMMERTIME, just like its identical twin CAROL, both suggest that love is never just black and white. Unfortunately, back in the day, you could not just fall in love and get a guarantee of safety and public consensus. People had to fight for their rights to be who they wanted to be and to love who they wanted to love. But both Todd Haynes and Catherine Corsini understood all the affliction and heartaches that went into such prohibited romances. Their films underscore that all the pain and all the heartbreak only made such stories even more beautiful and enthralling. SUMMERTIME sacrifices itself only to prove the credibility of love and power of its resistance.
The Final Word: A captivating take on lesbian love in the most challenging of times
This article was guest written by Julia Malahovska @juicedotjuice