Summer Lovers

The Devil Says

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Life, love, and sex. It’s as if they asked me to OK every part of this production (well, except for a few ‘80s pop songs—those need help). The tone is light and the atmosphere is sensual, but there’s a message with the sun, sand, and skin, and it’s a simple one: This is your life; live it!

Michael and Cathy are naïve Americans who decide to cut loose for a summer on the Greek isles. Being conventional sorts, their wild plans are rather tame, at least for Peoria. They’ve been together for five years and love each other, but love doesn’t mean happiness, and both are mildly discontented. Then Michael spots Lina, a mysterious French beauty, and being male, he wants her. That he catches her is more due to her interest in no-strings island-sex than in his charms. Since he is foolish, not an ass, he tells all to Cathy, who decides to visit Lina and discover what makes her so alluring. To her surprise, they get along well, and soon, all three are trying to work out the complexities of a three-way (though only heterosexual) relationship.

This is the story of three very pretty people (Peter Gallagher, Daryl Hannah, and Valerie Quennessen), surrounded by many nude and semi-nude pretty beach-goers, all on an extremely pretty island. Yes, the word for the day is pretty. The camera work may not be stunning, but what the camera is pointed at is. Primarily it is the naked young bodies, but the Greek islands, the sea, the architecture, and the ruins are close behind. These aren’t locations you can fake, and for reasons known only to the Government of Greece, the filmmakers were given permission to shoot on ancient sites and even in an active dig. (Quennessen, portraying an archeologist, discovered actual 3500 year old pottery while in front of the camera.)

The acting is more than a bit stilted, and the dialog is unremarkable, though the second isn’t a detriment. The lines sound like I’d expect to hear from inexperienced youths, which is the definition of Michael and Cathy. Besides the beauty onscreen, it is plot and message which makes this an intoxicating film. The pair stumbles along the way, but learns that there’s more to life than a house in the suburbs, two kids, and a dog. Lina manages to pick up a bit too, but she was well advanced of the others to begin with. Lina quotes Margaret Mead: “Jealousy doesn’t show how much you love someone; it shows how insecure you are.” That’s only a small part of the theme, and not the most important part. It isn’t even completely true, in the world or for the characters. But it shows where Lina starts from, and where they are all going.

Summer Lovers is an artifact of an earlier time, when there was hope for a better future. When it looked like maybe, just maybe, love and Lust and freedom could mix, You don’t see movies like this any more. There is no fear in it (although occasionally the characters are scared). Sex is fun and a ménage à trios is both acceptable and desirable (Hell, 90% of the male population of the planet can tell you it’s desirable—as long as they think no one can hear them say it—but somehow, pop culture doesn’t understand that). How have things fared since1982. Less insightful teen sex comedies (American Pie 5) now announce that a ménage à trios isn’t worth having because it isn’t romantic. Yeah. Right. In the 1990s, Summer Lovers was shown on TV in edited form. Not only with the nudity cut, but the ending was removed, leaving Michael and Cathy depressed and Lina alone and broken. The edited pic preached that anything but a conventional, passion-low relationship would only lead to unhappiness. It's time for a trip back to 1982.

Sins (What does this mean?)

Pride Nothing.
Sloth This is a story about people laying about on beaches.
Avarice Nothing.
Gluttony Drinking and dining, that includes an olive oil fight, and disco dancing.
Aesthetics Beauty is everywhere. Incredible human flesh, awe-inspiring cliffs, stunning ocean views, sparkling beaches, picturesque architecture. There’s even ancient Greek ruins.
Surrogate Cruelty Nothing.
Thought The suggestion that common, social relationships should not be blindly accepted. Consider alternatives.
Humor Plenty of things to smile about, but no big laughs.
Lust Oh yes. Quennessen, naked. Gallagher, naked. Hannah, mostly naked. Several hundred healthy young males and females, naked or mostly naked. Exciting sex scenes, though the most erotic moment is close-up kissing.

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Film Info

Directer & Writer: Randal Kleiser

Producer: Mike Moder

Composer: Basil Poledouris

Cast: Peter Gallagher, Daryl Hannah, Valerie Quennessen

Location: Islands of Santorini, Crete, Delos, and Mykonos

Runtime: 98 min