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Hélène Berthier, niece of a famous painter, receive her children and grand children for her birthday, and take this opportunity to talk about her death, and what will happen to her uncle's collection. Once dead, Frederic, her elder son think that they'll keep the house as it his, but his brother and sister don't live in France anymore and think that it would more intelligent to sell. When I was expecting the family to be destroyed around this heritage, nothing like that happens, they all accept and the rarity in the 21 century of families having things that could belong to museums takes an end. This film is extremely beautiful, for many reasons. First because it can touch everyone who lost someone and saw what was theirs, being sold and put in many places. Then this film is beautiful because it shows also how everyone accepts that but also suffers from what they can't keep together: family, past, heritage! To me it shows better than any Amelie, or La Vie en Rose what being French means: being thorn between the heritage of a culture and an appeal of modernity, wanting to keep your roots alive and spread toward the world. This is funny how this thought came through my mind "Why do they want to live in Beijing or New York?" suddenly being in the film, that seemed weird to me when I just lived two years and a half in London, and probably won't stay in my old country forever. The actors are great, Edith Scob playing the extremely classy Hélène, and Charles Berling, Jeremy Regnier and Juliette Binoche are very touching and human. It's important to say, that the object are also characters in this story, and it's scary at the end to see them in the museum d'Orsay, how they lost life or are recovering some. It's important to say that this film was a project with the museum, and I think that it is brilliant to make us pay attention to the details of these objects when generally we're not. Question: is art made for museum or to live with it? People wouldn't try to steal them from museum if the answer was museums If you want to see my other critics: http://www.silverparticules.blogspot.com
Assayas says this film more or less sums up all his work so far, and
that may surprise some, since it is so different, so indistinguishable
in many ways from the work of other contemporary French filmmakers who
deal with middle class life. And the impulse behind the film was
something trivial and occasional, a request from the Musée d'Orsay to
do something, as they'd asked Hou Hsiau-hsien (the result was Hou's
'Flight of the Red Balloon'). Hou's film uses the d'Orsay so
incidentally I can hardly remember how it fits in; but Assayas takes
the idea of a museum quite seriously and literally. His story is about
a family, and a mother who dies in her mid-seventies leaving behind a
house and a collection of museum pieces, works of art, furniture, and
We begin with a scene quite conventional in French films: the seasonal family gathering. The 'Heure d'été' (summer hour), is a moment when adult siblings Adrienne (Juliette Binoche, the star of Hou's 'Balloon,' though including her again was not a d'Orsay requirement), Frédéric (Charles Berling, his third time in an Assayas film, and a kind of alter ego here), and Jérémie (Jérémie Renier) with parts of their families, have come to the family's beautiful country place to celebrate the 75th birthday of their mother Hélène (Edith Scob). Hélène is one of those perfectly slim, elegant, erect French women. She spends a lot of time telling Frédéric, to his annoyance, about the valuables the children will inherit when she dies, including a handsome 19th-century desk, display case, and other objects, the sketchbooks of her famous uncle, the artist Jean Berthier, two Corot paintings, and two large sketches by Odilon Redon. They will want to dispose of them all, she says, and the house. She has certain requirements. The D'Orsay wants the furniture; the sketchbooks must be kept together. Some objects she is giving to him.
After this sequence, Hélène is dead, perhaps a year later. She has gone to San Francisco for the start of a major traveling exhibition of Berthier's work, and there has been a presentation in France on his personal life (including the fact that he was gay, and other controversial information) which shook her considerably. And her involvement in the production of a book, a catalog, and the traveling exhibition all wore her down and left her devastated and empty when they were completed.
It is against Frédéric 's wishes, but when the siblings meet again, it's obvious Hélène was right and the possessions and the house must be sold, and the old housekeeper, Eloise (Isabelle Sadoyan) must be released. Jérémie, who works for a company that makes running shoes, is going to take his wife and kids to live in China permanently. Adrienne, who is a designer, lives in New York, and she's going to marry her American boyfriend and stay there. They can't go back to the country house regularly any more. It seems Frédéric gets a raw deal, because he, whom the dispersal of family heirlooms hurts the most, is going to have to deal with the nuts and bolts of the process, because he's the only one who lives in France. But that's the way it is, and what's more Jérémie needs money to set up in his new life in China.
Assayas goes into the details, even showing a meeting of the curators and administrators concerned with the donation at the Musée d'Orsay. They are particularly interested in the furniture and the Redons (the Corots are sold elsewhere). One official objects that these things will just go into storage.
This is a suavely composed picture, but it still comes across as the most elegant of instructional films, if such existed for showing at posh schools to teach children of the wealthy how to deal with inheritances in the world of globalization. Yes, globalization is what Assayas is talking about, though the word is used in his comments on the film, not in the screenplay itself. Assayas' didacticism this time is admirably straightforward, and at the same time, the ideas are presented in what for Assayas is an unusually warm context. One of the touchstones is the old housekeeper, Eloise, who returns to the house when it's been shut up, and goes to Hélène's grave to deposit flowers. The important point is that this is not about the traditional family squabble over inheritance. Though Frédéric is saddened, there is no argument, and he and Jérémie pointedly (maybe too pointedly) part friends. There are other little details that are accurate and practical. It's pointed out that Adrienne's plan to sell the sketchbooks in New York through Christie's won't work. The French government is unlikely to let them out of the country. Frédéric is away a lot too, and for whatever reason he has to pick up his teenage daughter, caught stealing, and holding pot. But the final scene, which again is warmly didactic, shows that daughter with her boyfriend and a bunch of her friends invading the old house one last time, saying a sad farewell..
As I'm not the first to comment, this is one of Assayas' simplest films, but it's also one of his most touching and meaningful. Instructional film though it may be, it deals with subject matter that can move the hardest heart. If you don't care about losing a parent, you will surely be touched with the thought of losing the places of your childhood--and family money. If love won't get you, money will. And there is a final meditation by Frédéric at the D'Orsay where he and his wife Lisa (Dominique Reymond) look at the objects they've donated (not in storage) and consider the other trade-off: a contribution to history and the public's culture has been made, but the objects are like prisoners now, shut up in a cold space, robbed of their human context in a family's life.
Up until now, you may have seen films that are told through the eyes of
a specific character, a child or even a dog. However this film achieves
the impossible, it tells the story of generations through the eyes of
the objects! The film opens with a large family gathering in a gorgeous
old house located in French countryside. The house lies in the middle
of a large garden and hosts beautiful antique furniture the owner,
mother of three middle aged children, inherited from her uncle. A year
later, she dies and the children have to decide about the fate of the
house and the furniture.
Anyone who has lost a parent or an elder family member possibly has gone through these difficulties depicted so naturally in the film. However, the movie goes beyond the initial thoughts and feelings. Delicate questions asked by this movie are multifaceted and explore the effects of capitalist globalization on generations.
Those objects have memories in them. When they are left to a museum, they seemingly belong to the society as whole but to no one at the same time.
The elder brother, professor of economy, who lives in France wants to preserve the house, he wants to stick to his roots, to family memories but his brother and sister want to follow their careers in China and US. Yes, by doing so they live in the moment and yes, they are not confined to France and yes, the whole world is theirs but they are also left with nothing. Like objects displayed in the museum.
And this duality lives on until the ironic ending, which can be interpreted as optimistic or pessimistic by viewers even tough pessimistic tone is definitely more prevalent.
Beautiful acting by Binoche, Charles Berling, Edith Scob and wonderful directing and writing by Assayas. This movie is just lifelike, simple but complex!
SUMMER HOURS (L'heure d'été) is more of a reverie than a story for a
film. This very French film touches the subject of family - the meaning
and influence and contradictions - in an examination of coping with the
death of the matriarch and her wishes versus the intentions of the
siblings. Writer/Director Olivier Assayas seems less interested in
allowing the viewer to get to know the individuals of the story than he
is with conveying the vacuum of death and the aftermath of dealing with
it in the setting of a family of grown children.
The film opens as it closes - in summer with scenes awash with French countryside living. Three children have gathered with their families for the 75th birthday of their mother, the elegant and wistful Hélène (Edith Scob) whose adoration of her famous painter uncle presses on her mind as she senses her own mortality. One son, Frédéric (Charles Berling) is her confidant in hearing her wishes about the dispersal of the house and furniture and art that mean so much to her. Her other son Jérémie (Jérémie Renier) has traveled from his new home in China where his tennis shoes company has stationed him: his fondness for his mother is apparent but his need for financing makes him view the wishes of his mother in a more practical light. Her daughter Adrienne (Juliet Binoche) has traveled from her preferred new home in New York City and views the wishes of her mother with a similar practical and somewhat distant stance.
Some time later the mother dies and the children gather for the funeral and for the discussion of what to do with the 'inheritance'. The interplay between the sentimental Frédéric and the pragmatic Adrienne and Jérémie bring about questions of placing the art and furniture with museums and the selling of the house of their youth. Gentle undertones of sibling relationships and questions about the quality of memorabilia versus the practicality of getting on with living provide the final movement. The film ends in a coda that returns the younger generation (Hélène's grandchildren) to the beauty of the gardens of the now empty French house. The thread that holds the film together is the presence of the longtime housekeeper Éloïse (Isabelle Sadoyan), the gentle being that understands it all.
Though the film is beautifully acted and photographed there is very little development of the various characters, a fact that leaves the viewer with the feeling of simply peeking through a windowpane to watch a French family walk through a moment in life and in death. Nothing much happens here: the film is more a reverie, but a very beautiful one to relax and enjoy. Grady Harp
This is a haunting film about the distorting effects of monetary exchange on family life and the cohesion of society. It will give food for thought to anyone with elderly parents who may have accumulated a few works of art during their lifetime. At a time of grief, the bereaved have difficult questions to answer. The film-goer is left wondering, "What would I have done if I had been in a similar situation?" It is not a film to be quickly forgotten. Although the issue of the fate of the family's country house may be a specifically French theme, others dealt with are more universal and have a deep resonance for anyone with elderly relations. Juliette Binoche may be the name that draws film-goers in, but there is fine acting from all the performers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Helene, the matriarch of a well to do French family, living in a rural
setting, is celebrating her 75th birthday. Her three children,
Frederic, Jeremie, and Adrienne have come to have lunch with her. The
two sons are married, but their sister is not married, although she is
seeing someone. Only Frederic still lives in France. Jeremie is an
executive now working in China. Adrienne is a designer that has made
New York her home.
After lunch, Helene summons Frederic to her office to discuss what she wants to do with her possessions once she is dead. She has amassed a large collection of paintings and objet d'art, scattered all over the rambling house. Frederic is disturbed by what he his mother wants him to do, but since he is the only close by, he must be in charge. One thing Helene knows is the value of each piece in her valuable collection. Frederic has wanted to keep the paintings, especially the two Corot landscapes as part of their heritage. Most of the work was collected by an uncle who favored Helene and whose relationship with her is not completely explained, although one suspects there was some kind of incestuous liaison between them.
Unfortunately Helene dies a year after we first met her, leaving the siblings in a quandary. Adrienne is the practical one; she knows the tax bite will be enormous and the way about it is to donate the art work to the Musee D'Orsay, interested in most of the furniture and the rest. The older housekeeper Eloise is offered to take something from the house as a souvenir for herself to remember the family and ends up taking a valuable glass sculpture because she always thought it was so ugly that no one would like it.
"L'heure d'ete" is a fine movie written and directed by Oliver Assayas. There is a lot of symbolism in the way the story is presented. One can draw several conclusions about how the estate is being divided since Frederic, one feels, is the only one that shows any appreciation to the significance of letting go of the things he grew admiring and thought they would stay with the family forever, only to see it go to museums in order to avoid inheritance taxes. Mr. Assayas is taking a hard view at the two siblings that have fled the coop and have no interest in keeping what Frederic thought was rightly theirs.
This is a French film and the main idea is that in spite of what the three brothers think about the way to solve their problem, they still are civil and talk in a mature tone to one another. We liked Charles Berling as Frederic. He feels a quiet rage at losing control of the inevitable and to the things he loved. The Adrienne of Juliette Binoche is perfect in her take of this woman who has left everything behind to make a new life. Jeremie Renier, who can be seen in the current "Le silence de Lorna", and who has worked with the Dardenne brothers, in his native Belgium, was a surprise; he even looks different as the executive living so far away. We also enjoy Edith Scob's quiet intensity as Helene. Behind her serene exterior, there is nothing but a steel resolve to have things done according to her will.
Eric Gautier's cinematography does wonders for the enjoyment of the film. This is one of Oliver Assayas' most heartfelt movies. The director knew his characters well and it translates into a film that was a joy to sit through.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a haunting film that's difficult to classify combining as it does the melancholy of Uncle Vanya with background music by the Dave Brubeck quartet. The central metaphor may seem a tad labored but it's also effective: the film opens with a lyrical shot of a large, rambling country house in which young children beguile the summer afternoon in innocent games; at the end, with the matriarch dead, the house in the process of being sold and the contents dispersed to places like musee d'Orsay, the house and gardens are overrun with teenagers throwing a wild party complete with rap. In between is some class acting from the likes of Edith Scob, Charles Berling, Jeremie Renier and a blonde Juliette Binoche as mother and siblings respectively. This is a film in which pain is always below the surface and there are virtually no blow-ups signalling the unleashing of home-truths all round. This family is already fragmented long before the mother dies and has the feel of Sautet at his best - Cesar et Rosalie, Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud, Un Coeur en hiver - heady company sure but this movie can stand comparison.
Summer Hours is a French film in French with English subtitles. It focuses on a family who do not see each other very often due to work and several of the siblings living overseas, but they are reunited and have to deal with an estate and the many belongings of one of the family members. Going through the belongings and seeing their old summer house brings back memories and has an effect on each person individually and some show it more than others and we also see how the many prized pieces of art belonging to the deceased go through being evaluated and how the siblings are going to part with them, or keep them for sentimental value. A lot of these decisions and choices and a look at a once close family who is now reunited is discussed in this film. Summer Hours is not one of your fast moving action packed films, but instead focuses a lot on characters and their lives and how they interact with the ones around them. The performances are all very strong here as is the character development and the dialogue, so for me it was an absolute joy to watch realistic characters deal with real life situations and emotions. The artistic and cultural belongings in the film that is a large focus of the story is also an interesting touch to the story because it really shows some different sides of the characters and for anyone interested in antiques, or art of any kind it is fascinating to watch seeing the impact they have on the museums and the appraisers. While the film does deal with family issues, I do want to stress that it is not a really dysfunctional family that we are observing here and it is not a depressing film to watch. On the contrary it sometimes left me quite uplifted to see how things are passed on from generation to generation and how even the simplest of things can bring back the memories of the ones we love and the times that are very dear to us. The siblings do get along and they do care for each other, but they are all older now and some have families and a lot of them have high demanding jobs and live elsewhere, so they do not really have time for each other, not because they don't care, but because their lives have taken them elsewhere, which I think is a realistic and honest way of looking at families because after all doesn't situations like this happen to us all eventually? There is definitely a lot the film leaves us to think about and I think it also allows us to appreciate our own families and the things that make them special and what brings us together and what will give us everlasting memories. Summer Hours does this without being overly sentimental, or preachy, but it still leaves the viewer with a lot to think about and to cherish about what one just watched. It left me with a peaceful and tranquil feeling and I really enjoyed watching these characters and learning more about them. A moving and intriguing tale that is one of this year's best films.
I knew nothing of this film when I walked into the theater. It was
nothing like I anticipated. "Claire's Knee" perhaps? What unfolds
through the wonder of Olivier Assayas construction, direction and
camera work was an equivalent to Chekhov for me. As generations and
values change, what gets lost and left behind isn't only the contents
of a summer house (which is the focus of the film). Values of and
connections to the past dwindle in the summer twilight, and there's
panic, guilt, mourning, release and the dawn of another generation
unwound on the screen.
My one complaint is the length of the beautiful end piece of the film. It introduces a new set of characters to a degree that I was left wanting more. I would have preferred the film ending with the housekeeper rattling the windows to regain entrance, but this is a small complaint to a masterful film, that's beautifully acted and hypnotic to watch.
I overheard someone sitting near me say to the person who had dragged him to the film, "I'll be sleeping through this one." Curious, I looked over two-thirds into the film, and he wasn't asleep; he was spellbound, along with the rest of us.
A marvellously descriptive examination of the power of memories, and
the pull of the present in the eventual destruction of those memories.
I decided, principally, to see this film because of the presence of Juliette Binoche in the cast but, even tough hers is a strongly written character, and the acting of Binoche is of it's usual highest standard, it was the heartbreak portrayed by the oldest, and youngest, members of the extended family that really affected me the most.
The most heartbreaking moments came towards the very end, and were played out without being overly sentimentalised. You are left wondering at the uselessness of hanging onto the past when all that are left are museum pieces.
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