Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Ellen Page And Kate Mara Are 'Tiny Detectives' In Hilarious 'True Detective' Parody Watch: Ellen Page And Kate Mara Are 'Tiny Detectives' In Hilarious 'True Detective' Parody 10 Female Directors Who Deserve More Attention From Hollywood 10 Female Directors Who Deserve More Attention From Hollywood Miles Teller Says Role In 'Divergent' Made Him Feel "Dead Inside," And He Took Movie "For Business Reasons" Miles Teller Says Role In 'Divergent' Made Him Feel "Dead Inside," And He Took Movie "For Business Reasons" First Look At 'The Dying Of The Light,' Paul Schrader Quits Film Over What Nicolas Winding Refn Calls "Artistic Disrespect" First Look At 'The Dying Of The Light,' Paul Schrader Quits Film Over What Nicolas Winding Refn Calls "Artistic Disrespect" New Images From 'Interstellar' Arrive, Christopher Nolan Says The Film Is A "Mirror" Of 'Inception' New Images From 'Interstellar' Arrive, Christopher Nolan Says The Film Is A "Mirror" Of 'Inception' Watch: New Trailer For ‘Kingsman: Secret Service’ Starring Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson & Taron Egerton Star Watch: New Trailer For ‘Kingsman: Secret Service’ Starring Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson & Taron Egerton Star Chilly New Banner For Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Explores A Cold New World Chilly New Banner For Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Explores A Cold New World 15 Films That Failed To Hit The 2014 Fall Festival Circuit 15 Films That Failed To Hit The 2014 Fall Festival Circuit Watch: Steven Soderbergh Re-Scores And Changes Steven Spielberg's 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' To Black-And-White Watch: Steven Soderbergh Re-Scores And Changes Steven Spielberg's 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' To Black-And-White Watch: Have A Threesome With Very NSFW Clip From 'Maps To The Stars' With Julianne Moore & John Cusack Watch: Have A Threesome With Very NSFW Clip From 'Maps To The Stars' With Julianne Moore & John Cusack First, Mostly Rave Reviews Arrive For David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' First, Mostly Rave Reviews Arrive For David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' Watch: New Hilarious Red-Band Trailer For 'The Interview' Starring Seth Rogen And James Franco Watch: New Hilarious Red-Band Trailer For 'The Interview' Starring Seth Rogen And James Franco Fantastic Fest Review: Hitman Thriller 'John Wick' Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe & Adrianne Palicki Fantastic Fest Review: Hitman Thriller 'John Wick' Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe & Adrianne Palicki 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

Review: 'A Burning Hot Summer' Is A Thundering Bore That Verges On Self-Parody

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com June 28, 2012 at 10:56AM

There are certain cliches associated with European cinema -- they're not necessarily always accurate but they do exist. Ask a layman -- a well educated, smart, nice person who might not be quite as subtitle-happy as you or I -- what they imagine they might see in, say, an average French film, and a number of things might come up. Characters who are constantly having extra-marital affairs, for instance. A vaguely homoerotic relationship between two friends. Unbroken four-to-five minute takes. Dialogue talking about 'the revolution.' An actress, perhaps Monica Bellucci, taking her clothes off within the first 45 seconds.
3
A Burning Hot Summer

This is a reprint of our review from the Venice Film Festival.

There are certain cliches associated with European cinema -- they're not necessarily always accurate, but they do exist. Ask a layman -- a well educated, smart, nice person who might not be quite as subtitle-happy as you or I -- what they imagine they might see in, say, an average French film, and a number of things might come up. Characters who are constantly having extra-marital affairs, for instance. A vaguely homoerotic relationship between two friends. Unbroken four-to-five minute takes. Dialogue talking about 'the revolution.' An actress, perhaps Monica Bellucci, taking her clothes off within the first 45 seconds.

If you were to take this layman's thoughts and turn them into a screenplay, you'd end up with "A Burning Hot Summer," the latest from Venice Film Festival favorite Philippe Garrel. Ostensibly, it's a film about male friendship: Paul (Jérôme Robart) meets Frédéric (Louis Garrel, the helmer's son), a painter married to Angèle (Bellucci), an Italian film actress, and the two men become fast friends. The couple invites Paul and his girlfriend Elisabeth (Céline Sallette) to stay with them in Rome, but it soon becomes apparent that their marriage is in trouble.

A Burning Hot Summer

Let's put it this way. "A Scorching Summer" is the kind of film where the line, "Fidelity is an outdated, petit-bourgeois concept" is said with a straight face. There were times when we genuinely thought that the film might be a very sophisticated parody. But it's not. It's instead an interminable, excruciatingly written drama full of characters that you wouldn't care about if you were related to them.

Garrel Sr. says that the film is one about friendship, but there's very little evidence of it here. Paul and Frédéric are introduced. They sit in the same room. And from that point on, we're expected to believe that they share some kind of defining bromance, although there's nothing to suggest that they're anything more than acquaintances. It doesn't help that Paul is a bland, characteristic-free cipher, and that Louis Garrel is one of the least charismatic leading men we've seen on screen in some time; going for "brooding artist," he lands closer to "that-guy-in-high-school-who-smoked-licorice-roll-ups-and-read-Sartre-to-show-how-tormented-he-was." We can only imagine that Garrel begins the film with Frédéric driving his car into a tree to keep the audience hoping that the scene will be replayed later on, in super slow-motion. We know a 1000fps shot of Garrel Jr. headbutting a windshield would have gone a long way to redeeming the film for us.

A Burning Hot Summer

The women don't fare much better, thanks to a thick strain of misogyny that runs through the film. Bellucci, a good decade too old for the part, somehow manages to be unconvincing as an Italian film actress, which is, you know, what she is. It can't be the French, because she's delivered good performances in the language before, but somehow, she was less wooden in "The Matrix Reloaded." Sallette comes off the best -- she's rather luminous on screen, and a bizarre sleepwalking scene suggests that another, more interesting film could have been made that focused on Elisabeth, if only Garrel had any interest in having her do anything but complain that her boyfriend isn't paying attention to her.

What little drama there is, is often revealed in advance by a forehead-slappingly redundant voiceover, new characters are introduced seemingly at random, and the pacing is such that the film feels twice as long as it really is, with no sense of how much time has passed on screen. And like yesterday's other Venice turkey "W.E," there are a number of scenes that simply beggar belief: a ghostly appearance by Frédéric's grandfather, for instance, or an interminable one-shot, five-minute sequence of Bellucci dancing at a party to some substandard British indie rock (Carl Barat's Libertines offshoot Dirty Pretty Things, if you're interested).

There are maybe, if we're being generous, one or two neatly composed shots (the film is competently made at least, and well shot by veteran Willy Kurant, it just has this great stinking albatross of a screenplay around its neck), and one or two nicely observed moments. More importantly, it has a lovely, although spare, score by ex-"Velvet Underground" man John Cale, one just good enough to lift the film off the bottom grade. We've no idea why he still continues to work with the director, a long-time collaborator, however -- presumably he owes Garrel money from back when the director was seeing Nico. Hopefully, it'll become independently available, to save interested parties from actually having to sit through "A Scorching Summer." [D-]

This article is related to: Un ete brulant, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates