Restless married couple Maria and Paul take a road trip through Spain with their friend Claire. While Paul and Claire carry on a clandestine affair, Maria becomes obsessed with a recent ...
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Restless married couple Maria and Paul take a road trip through Spain with their friend Claire. While Paul and Claire carry on a clandestine affair, Maria becomes obsessed with a recent murder in a small town along the way. What begins as a vacation ends as a meditation on tragedy and infidelity in screenwriter Marguerite Duras's adaptation of her novella, directed by Jules Dassin. Written by
The desires of a threesome (Mercouri, Finch, and Schneider) in Spain bolstered by beautiful movie-making
"10:30 P.M. Summer" is a very good-looking picture with excellent cinematography, strong visuals, and strong acting by all concerned. Finch, Mercouri and Schneider, under the more than capable direction of Jules Dassin, are able to show emotions in their eyes and faces that most actors would love to be capable of. The net result, even though the story falters at the end, is a movie that attracts our attention.
If one expects an obvious morality tale or conclusive themes, one will be disappointed. What we have here are three adults bound together by their attractions and drives as well as driven apart by them. The sexual angles are not conventional. Finch and Mercouri are married. Schneider travels with them in Spain, as does their pre-teen daughter. Mercouri and Finch have cooled off, but Finch still loves her while not making love to her. His passion is for Schneider. Mercouri also is attracted to her. They even speak of a foursome involving some other man in the past. Mercouri is alcoholic. She sets her mind on saving the life of a young man who has slain his wife and her lover. She seems to feel that she is in the same position as the young Spaniard.
This kind of story is distinctly European, or at least there are many European movies that have less plot than American movies and more focus on personal relationships. These movies are sometimes called "arty", but I see no need to degrade them by such a term. The question is whether or not they succeed on their own terms by some sensible criteria, or whether they fail.
This picture has a bit too much of Mercouri emoting in a drunken haze with slurred and accented words that no sound engineer could make easy to understand. The Dassin camera loves her a bit too much. Finch and Schneider are seen less and sometimes through Mercouri's eyes and dreams. Even her daughter fades from view as the story progresses.
The story becomes Mercouri's. The main action in saving the murderer is hers. We therefore have the portrait of a woman falling because of losing her mate and attempting to do something that gives her life some sort of value. In the pessimistic world of Dassin, such an attempt has to fail, at least on the surface. This is Dassin's noir feeling narrowed down into a focus on one woman's struggle to find some meaning when her marriage has failed. But maybe this movie helped the Dassin-Mercouri marriage. They married in the year of the movie (1966) and remained married until her death in 1994. Maybe the success comes in the trying and in the catharsis of making the movie and viewing it. Maybe such a movie succeeds when it arouses our sympathy for Mercouri's character so that we try to avoid the failure she had to contend with.
Maybe there is a morality tale here after all, but one that's not obvious. Instead, it's tucked away in our feelings and lies beneath what we see on the screen.
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