Summertime Is This Year's Blue Is The Warmest Color

Photo: Courtesy of Strand Releasing.
Allow me to begin by saying: I'm not comparing the upcoming Summertime — or, La Belle Saison, in French — to Blue Is The Warmest Color just because they are both films about love affairs between women. But as I watched Summertime, an award-winning Toronto Film Festival select that chronicles two women exploring sexuality and feminism in 1970s France, there were undeniable similarities. In particular: the way that both movies invoke the dreamy restlessness of youth and the uncertainty and excitement of coming into your own, both sexually and as a woman.
Like Blue, Summertime takes place in France. But Summertime's story is brought to life by a female writer and director, Catherine Corsini, who — contrasting against Blue's contemporary setting — kicks off the film in the early 1970s, at the cusp of a young woman's adulthood. Delphine, 25, is a provincial French girl who quietly grew up on her parents' farm guarding a secret: She prefers women to the local boy who is patiently waiting to ask for her hand in marriage.

After Delphine's father reminds her that "loneliness is a terrible thing," Delphine decides to finally leave her hometown and set out for Paris. She's instantly wide-eyed and eager; the actress, Izïa Higelin, does a fantastic job at translating the desperate thirst we all have at a certain stage of our lives to discover a wider world full of grand adventures. "Paris is an incredible city," Delphine writes in a letter to send back home. "I live three months in one week."

Delphine's infatuation with her new world is mostly due to those she meets participating in the women's movement, which is in full swing in the '70s. The city's underground is a swirl of feminist folk songs and pro-women, pro-choice speeches. Soon, Delphine meets Carole (Cécile De France), the woman who arouses the sexual desires she'd hoped to bury. Delphine and Carole soon tumble into a rapturous love affair. Their hunger is fervent, their chemistry electric. But while the romantic scenes in Blue were more explicitly about sex, Summertime feels more tightly ensconced in intimacy. When Delphine and Carole spend an afternoon in Delphine's tiny apartment laughing and eating crackers, the scene feels nostalgic, familiar. We get an insight into the minutiae of their relationship in a way that feels even more realistic than Blue: Corsini pays special attention to their body language, their languid summer days, and the intrinsic personality differences that come from being people from two completely different worlds.

Photo: Courtesy of Strand Releasing.

Of course, some of the best scenes in Summertime stick in your mind if only because of of the setting itself. Cinematographer Jeanne Lapoirie effortlessly eases the viewer between a bustling hippie Paris and the golden-green French countryside. When Delphine's father suffers a stroke and she has to return to his farm to care for him, Carole leaves everything behind — Paris, the movement, the man she was seeing before Delphine — to be there for the woman she loves. But to Carole's dismay, Delphine asks her to keep the true nature of their relationship hidden from her mother. One of the film's most sensory moments is when the couple escapes to feast on one another in a field so vivid, you can almost smell the fresh-cut summer grass.

The film slows down considerably once Carole arrives at Delphine's family farm. But trust me, the slower third quarter is worth sticking with when you see the way the characters heartbreakingly come to a climax. The ending is sad but satisfying: While there are some untied threads, and we're left feeling aching and uncertain about both characters' futures, a happy fairy-tale ending for the pair would have felt trite. So yes, this French, indie, lesbian coming-of-age story does indeed echo Blue. But Summertime is also a delicious, remarkable love story in no need of comparisons.
Check out the trailer below. Summertime opens in select theaters in New York and Los Angeles Friday, July 22.
This summer, we're celebrating the biggest movie season of the year with a new series called Blockbust-HER. We'll be looking at everything film-related from the female perspective, interviewing major players in the industry and discussing where Hollywood is doing right by women and where (all too often) it is failing them. And now...let's go to the movies!

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