Sunday, August 9, 2015

5 Summer Films

Since the hot weather is hitting its peak here on the East coast, and as I'm about to head off to the beach for a week, I thought I'd share five of my favorite summer films.  These will all make you feel like it's summertime even if you watch them in the middle of a blizzard, I promise.

1)  Purple Noon, 1960, directed by René Clément

Purple Noon is a film adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley.  While the plot isn't strictly by-the-book, the artistry of the setting captures the tension and unease better than any other film adaptation (ahem, yes, that one).  Alain Delon's Tom Ripley is gorgeous and haunting and definitely not to be trusted.  The scenery of mid-century Italy is uncompromisingly colorful and vivid, at odds with the deep undercurrents of darkness within the story.
Available on Hulu Plus and DVD/Blu Ray from the Criterion Collection.

2)  Double Indemnity, 1944, directed by Billy Wilder

If there is a perfect film noir, this is it.  Lit in high contrast, going between pitch black nights and blinding California sunshine, this is a case study of murderous and opportunistic lovers and the apparently seductive allure of anklets (who knew?).  From the minute Barbara Stanwyck appears, fresh from sunbathing, Fred MacMurray's sleazy insurance man chases after her down a road that leads to murder, fraud, and the complete collapse of his own tenuous morality.
Available on Amazon Instant Video.

3)  Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, 1953, directed by Jacques Tati

I've written about this before, but I don't think there's any other movie that perfectly captures a beach holiday like this one.  Jacques Tati always dabbles in the ridiculous within the mundane, and you can find it here in abundance.  From the crowd of vacationers running back and forth between train platforms, to the accidental late-night fireworks display, to the flat tire turned funeral wreath, and to a collapsed sailboat masquerading as a shark, there is no better quiet commentary on the everyday absurd.
Available on Hulu Plus and DVD/Blu Ray from the Criterion Collection.

4)  High and Low, directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1963

A high-tension kidnapping thriller, this is by far my favorite Kurosawa film.  This neo-noir film in 1960's Japan seethes with heat and humidity throughout, especially once the action leaves the closed-door setting of a millionaire's air conditioned home and turns to sweltering police offices and decrepit ghettos.  The final chase sequence takes us through a shimmering night-time Tokyo to ugly streets that seem to be melting in the summer heat, reflected off the kidnapper's sunglasses like a vision from Dante's Inferno.  My favorite Japanese film star, Tatsuya Nakadai, plays a cool and efficient police chief, whose magnetic eyes radiate righteous purpose and determination at every twist in the plot.
Available on Hulu Plus and DVD/Blu Ray from the Criterion Collection.

5)  Roman Holiday, directed by William Wyler, 1953

Is there really anything more delightful than seeing a young Audrey Hepburn explore the streets of Rome with handsome Gregory Peck?  No.  No, there is not.  This is the perfect vacation everyone wants to have and no one will ever attain, so we might as well stop trying.  Princess Ann spends her 24 hours of freedom by meeting street vendors, getting her hair cut by a reluctant barber, and getting involved in a wild fracas at a dance.  The ending still makes me cry, every single time.
Available on Netflix.

  • What about you guys?  Any favorite summertime films or vacation films that make you long for fresh scenery or freedom from the everyday?  Talk about it below!


  1. The Long Hot Summer. Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward. Check it out if you haven't already. 5 stars.

  2. Love all of these!!! Some more that make the cut in this camp for me are The Talented Mr. Ripley, Grease, and La Dolce Vita.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Oh, I really need to finally see La Dolce Vita! I've been on a kick of mid-century Italian films (I have a huge girl crush on Monica Vitti right now), so that would be right up my alley.


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