These Aren't Drawings, These Are Pictures: Summer of '42 (1971)

HD is glorious.  I especially fancy this development as it relates to the grainy, soft-focus, Technicolor films of the 60's and 70's, Badlands being the best example I have seen to date.  Robert Mulligan, better know for To Kill a Mockingbird, provides such a film with his adaptation of Herman Raucher's memoirs of his own Summer of '42.  The film is not perfect.  The acting leaves much to be desired and often relies heavily on melodramatic elements to advance the plot, yet this coming of age tale offers moments of beauty, heartbreak and even an occasional laugh. I would call Summer of '42 one of those pleasant surprises that you stumble upon by accident.  It is certainly not The Graduate, but at times comes pretty damn close.

As is to be expected, the film follows the experiences of Hermie Raucher (Gary Grimes) as he spends a summer on an island with his "friends" Oscy (Jerry Houser) and Benjie (Oliver Conant).  I use the term friends lightly, because as the narrative progresses it is apparent that the Oscy and Benjie exist as barriers to Hermie's own maturity.  Hermie, as most young boys do, obsesses with an older girl from the town named Dorothy (Jennifer O'Neill) whose lover is shown leaving to fight in WW2.  As the film advances, Hermie grows distant from his immature friends obsessions with fondling breasts and playing at the beach to discover the pain and beauty of a first love.  In a moment of cinematic perfection Hermie visits a sullen Dorothy, at the recent discovery of her boyfriends death, and consoles her with a slow dance that completely changes the lightheartedness of the film up to this point.  The film ends with the narrator discussing his own loss that summer an experience that aging inevitably brings.

In regards to critical analysis, I have nothing to offer, but I do want to note the aesthetic brilliance of the film.  As noted earlier, it is done in a soft-focus with natural lighting.  The film employs jump cuts, fade-ins, fade-outs, and match cuts to create the impression of nostalgia.  You are not only hearing the ramblings of an aging man, you are also witnessing the flashes of fading memories.  This existence is only heightened by the film beginning with still images, implying that such fluid remembrance come from the glossy pictures of years gone by.  If you enjoyed The Graduate, The Outsiders or early Terrance Mallick than I highly suggest this film.  It is currently offered in HD for those with On-Demand, but for the time being, the DVD version will have to do, because, sadly, no Blu-Ray copy exists.

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