Saturday, October 11, 2008

Summer Hours (L'Heure d'Ete)

(Directed by Olivier Assayas, 2008, France)
(Notes from the 46th New York Film Festival, 2008, Part 1)

Since New York's Lincoln Center is completely dug up from construction, screenings of the New York Film Festival were held at the huge movie barn of the Ziegfield, the Walter Reade theater and as usual, opening and closing nights at Avery Fisher Hall (home of the NY Philharmonic). And tix were usually hard to get for opening, centerpiece and closing night of the Festival. So me and an enterprising friend settled for some festival faves, mostly of a French variety.

L'Heure d'Ete, Olivier Assayas's latest film (and second in a series made by other world directors for Paris's Musee d'Orsay) is an intimate story of a French family coming to terms with basic life issues: in this case, the closing of a summer house in the South of France and the mortality of a matriarchal figure (Edith Scob) who intends to leave her family affairs in order before she dies. This includes discussing with her oldest son Frederic (Charles Berling) where to place some of the rare objets d'art: a Corot painting, and various pieces of rare furniture, and closing the summer home. Indirectly we see the various other family members: Adrienne (Juliette Binoche) a fashion designer living in New York City and Jeremie (Jeremie Renier) who runs a sneaker factory in Shanghai, China.

The second part of the film concerns the settlement of affairs after the matriarch's sudden death, family infighting over the house and belongings and the eventual closing of the house. Life moves on and the epilogue to this quiet film is a farewell: the grand-daughter has a blow out summer party with her friends and gives this small film a bittersweet coda.

This is not a major work by Assayas, but a chamber piece with a variety of different emotions at play: memory, mortality, and decisions of family heritage all work themselves out. The explosions are merely verbal sparring matches, but the film on the whole is rather lovely to watch, making this blogger envious for a summer place, albeit on a smaller scale. Recommended. B+

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