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2 reviews, 2 user ratings


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Summer Hours
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by Mel Valentin

"A thought-provoking mix of dramatic, thematic, and emotional pleasures."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 52ND SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Summer Hours" (“L'heure d'été”), a melancholic family drama written and directed by French filmmaker Olivier Assayas ("]Boarding Gate," "Clean," "Demonlover," "Irma Vep," "Cold Water") is probably his most accessible. Centered on a French family, "Summer Hours" explores the complex web of interactions, influences, and global trends and how they impact families, sometimes in surprising ways, sometimes not, sometimes subtlety, sometimes not. Filtered through Assayas’ keen ear for dialogue, eye for visual composition, and sympathetic direction, "Summer Hours" offers Francophile cineastes and arthouse connoisseurs a thought-provoking mix of dramatic, thematic, and emotional pleasures.

Summer Hours focuses on two adult brothers, Frédéric (Charles Berling) and Jérémie (Jérémie Renier), and middle sister Adrienne (Juliette Binoche). Fast approaching middle age, Frédéric, an economist and university professor in Paris, longs for visits with their mother, Hélène (Edith Scob), at the family home outside Paris. A successful businessman, Jérémie works and lives with his family in Shanghai, China. Adrienne, a once itinerant sculptor and designer, has finally settled down in the United States, where her relationship with her American boyfriend, James (Kyle Eastwood), has taken a serious turn. The scattered family has reunited for Hélène’s 75th birthday party. A seemingly happy, pleasant weekend turns sour for Frédéric when Hélène brings up her impending death. Hélène seems eager to discuss the disposition of the estate, including the collection of artwork from her late uncle (and rumored lover), Paul Berthier, a famous painter, and well-preserved, museum-ready furniture.

When Hélène passes away suddenly, the siblings and their families gather for her funeral. Frédéric tries to assert his authority as the eldest brother and family patriarch, but quickly finds himself outnumbered when both Jérémie and Adrienne express their desire to sell the family estate and split the proceeds, primarily for practical concerns (e.g., Jérémie wants to purchase a house for his family in Shanghai, Adrienne wants a nest-egg for future expenses, including her marriage to James). Frédéric struggles with accommodating his brother and sister’s desires with his own desire for preserving his mother and his family’s memories. Frédéric’s struggle is both particular (i.e., time, place, circumstance) and universal (i.e., cross-cultural), a point Assayas makes subtlety, without descending into melodrama or sentimentality (as would an American filmmaker).

As such, Frédéric, Jérémie, and Adrienne are stand-ins for the French (and Westerners in general, including to a lesser extent, the United States). Social, cultural, economic, and political forces shape and reshape Frédéric and his immediate family. Of the three, only Frédéric wants to remain in France and hold on to his familial and cultural past. Jérémie and Adrienne have left France, primarily for economic reasons (Adrienne’s are artistic as well). With the sale of the estate a "fait accompli," "Summer Hours" turns on Frédéric’s gradual acceptance, as well as the impact of the sale on his wife, who shares his grief, but recognizes the need to move on, and his two teenage children who, like live-in-the-present-moment teenagers everywhere, see little value in holding on to the past or their memories. [i]Summer Hours[/i] ends on a wistful, melancholic note, with Frédéric’s daughter briefly stepping out of her teenage concerns (e.g., friends, boys, partying) to reminisce about the now-sold house. Frédéric’s daughter returns to her teenage preoccupations moments later, leaving the now-sold house behind, ready to be stocked with the new memories from the new, unseen owners.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17882&reviewer=402
originally posted: 05/14/09 20:58:08
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 12th Annual European Union Film Festival For more in the 12th Annual European Union Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival of Boston 2009 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2009 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2009 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/22/10 Ionicera good cinematography but weak on plot - subtle to the point of frivolity 3 stars
6/21/09 PAUL SHORTT A CONTEMPLATIVE, WELL CONSTRUCTED AND TENDER FAMILY DRAMA 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  15-May-2009
  DVD: 20-Apr-2010

UK
  N/A

Australia
  15-May-2009
  DVD: 20-Apr-2010




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