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Summer Madness Review

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A middle-aged secretary finally goes on her dream holiday to Venice, and unexpectedly falls in love with more than the city itself.

★★★★

Retrieved from the lesser-sung period between Dickens adaptations and the great epics, this breezy tale of a lonely American spinster who trips over love amid the canals of summertime Venice, reputedly Lean's personal favourite, is a good deal sharper than outward appearances might suggest.

Of course, with his perfect eye and aversion to cliche, Lean smothers the city in rapturous symbolism but, with the assistance of Hepburn's genius for spiky vulnerability, his purpose is to undermine romantic daydreams with the wake-up call of reality.

An ideal companion piece to Brief Encounter (although, this time sex is on the menu), the point is that romance, especially here amid moonlit strolls, is a practical and often painful business. The warnings were there: gazing over a picture-perfect street scene, Hepburn is awoken from her reverie by a bucket of slop landing in the canal.

Being Lean's favourite of his films this is undoubtedly worthy of attention.