August 23, 2011  |  Film
Return to Hot and Humid

I just returned from a Maine cabin by a large freshwater lake, where I was frightened of the water. Sharks might maul me, or if not sharks, then perhaps a large snapping turtle out of a Roger Corman film (not that I can recall a Corman film with a killer turtle). Ah, the pleasurable influence of movies on my life. (I did finally go swimming, but not far from shore, and definitely not in a carefree manner, even though I know better.)

Thank you all for responding to my questions about summer films.

Just as I finished posting the question about films set in the southern hemisphere’s summer months of December through March, I remembered an Australian film I screened in April, Boxing Day (2007, Kriv Stenders) which, although it takes places the day after Christmas and has no Santa Claus, is about a “holiday” meal a parolee prepares for his brother’s ex-wife and daughter. Needless to say, in this feature, seemingly made in one continuous shot in real time, things don’t go as planned, and bad things happen, which puts Boxing Day firmly in my sultry Hot and Humid category. Take a look at the trailer:

Another fine Australian summer film mentioned by one of you is Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), a film whose true-life mystery remains unexplained to this day. Which reminds me of another disturbing Down Under true story, of a mother who was charged for the murder of her baby—who may actually have actually been abducted by a dingo—while she and her husband were on a (summer?) camping trip in the outback, A Cry in the Dark (1988, Fred Schepisi). And we shouldn’t forget Philip Noyce’s tense trouble-on-a-boat three-hander, Dead Calm (1989), whose narrative begins after the death of a child.


Chinatown. 1974. USA. Directed by Roman Polanski

Speaking about the Southern Hemisphere, we come to the frequently mentioned Brazilian feature City of God (2002, Fernando Meirelles), set in the vivid slums of Rio de Janeiro. I think this an impressive film but I wonder if the Hot and Humid category pertains to places that are for the most part, well, hot and humid most of the year. Like Chad, where much of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Profession: Reporter (aka The Passenger) (1975) takes place, or Thailand, whose landscape and culture are the inspiration for all of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films. I meant, and I apologize for not being clear, that “hot and humid” should be a seasonal phenomenon, rather than a constant condition to which one necessarily adjusts. This, then, puts into question some of your excellent recommendations, like Chinatown (1974, Roman Polanski), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951, Elia Kazan), The Stranger (1967, Luchino Visconti), and Stromboli (1950, Roberto Rossellini). Or does it?

Stray Dog. 1949. Japan. Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Films you mentioned that would make perfect additions to Hot and Humid (were we to have them in the collection) included Death in Venice (1971, Luchino Visconti), Elvira Madigan (1967, Bo Widerberg), The Go-Between (1971, Joseph Losey), Kids (l995, Larry Clark), Last Summer (1969, Frank Perry), and Stray Dog (1949, Akira Kurosawa). A few set-during-the-summer films have (arguably) happy endings, so they don’t qualify according to my peculiar rubric: In July (2000, Fatih Akin), Picnic (1955, Joshua Logan), and Summer of ’42 (1971, Robert Mulligan).

Then there are other suggestions that come from friends who insist I list their recommendations, and so for the record, and your consideration, here they are: Attica (1974, Cinda Firestone), Body Heat (1981, Lawrence Kasdan), Evil under the Sun (1982, Guy Hamilton), A Perfect World (1993, Clint Eastwood), Leave Her to Heaven (1945, John Stahl) The Long Hot Summer (1955, Martin Ritt), Mississippi Burning (1988, Alan Parker), and United 93 (2006, Paul Greengrass).

What do you think?

MoMA’s Hot and Humid: Summer Films from the Archives series runs through September 7.