Last Summer (1969)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.  

USA, 1969.  , .  Screenplay by based on the novel by .  Cinematography by , .  Produced by , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , .  Academy Awards 1969New York Film Critics Awards 1969.  

Frank Perry returns to the world of troubled teens that brought him great success seven years earlier in David and Lisa and are looking for girls while summering on Fire Island with their families (whom we don’t see) and meet when she is trying to help a distressed seagull on the beach.  Giving the remarkably unsubtle metaphor some help with the hook in its throat as an excuse to stay around the pretty, bikini-clad teenager, Davison and Thomas make Hershey a sexual goal that gets complicated when the three of them develop a friendship that involves sharing a great deal of their emotional anxieties.  Their explorations of sexuality and drugs are innocent when compared to the dark sides of their personalities that they reveal when facing their issues, brought into the fore when a more troubled fourth character () enters the picture and sets them on a more dangerous path.  Awkward and haunted, Burns also projects a sense of moral decency that brings out a careless rebellion in the other three, particularly in Hershey who becomes crueler the more time they spend together.  Beautifully photographed and ironically contrasting its harshly accurate depiction of budding teen personalities with the beauty of how physically perfect they look in their tiny swimwear, this one’s sexual tension is intoxicating and full of menace at the same time.  The similar but much less contentious Summer of ’42 would do a better job of capturing audience taste with its more romantic and forgiving look at coming of age, but this one’s harder (but not unsympathetic) look at the pains of growing up is in many ways much more accomplished.

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