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10:30 P.M. Summer

A later title in the filmography of director Jules Dassin, 10:30 P.M. Summer (1966) is an artsy, visually stunning, utterly empty exercise that too often sinks to pretension. The non-story features a middle-aged couple, Maria (Melina Mercouri) and Paul (Peter Finch), who are traveling through Spain with their young daughter and a beautiful woman named Claire (Romy Schneider). The reason for Claire accompanying the family is murky — there's something going on between her and Paul, Maria suspects as much, and the three keep alluding to something (a threesome, perhaps?) that happened when they were all in Verona. Whatever the official reason for her presence, Claire's been invited by Maria so that older woman can watch her with Paul, and they're not exactly discreet. The group ends up stranded for the night in a small village where a manhunt is underway for a young man (Julián Mateos) who murdered his wife and her lover. Maria becomes obsessed with the intrigue and, when she spots the fugitive hiding on a rainy rooftop at the same moment she spies Paul and Claire making out on an adjacent balcony, she decides to help him escape. Dassin's technique here is to cobble together beautiful, long montages of perfectly composed images — Maria's late-night drive into the countryside is one long set-piece of signs and road markers flashing in the headlights — but as pretty as the pictures are, it doesn't liven up the torpid story. Dassin co-wrote the screenplay with Marguerite Duras based on her novel, so there's no one to blame but Dassin for this sadly limp drama. MGM's DVD release offers a good-looking anamorphic transfer (1.66:1) with decent monaural Dolby Digital audio (primarily English, with some Spanish and Greek, as well as optional English and Spanish subtitles). No extras, keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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