Spring 2010 Features series
Sunday, May 30, 2010 at 4:00pm
Sunday, May 30, 2010 at 7:00pm
Directed by Olivier Assayas
Screenplay by Olivier Assayas
Starring Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jérémie Rénier, Edith Scob
Rated PG ·
French and English
The masterful film by Olivier Assayas is not a radical departure from his previous work, but the differences are nonetheless striking. Summer Hours has a mature look and feel, made by an artist completely at ease with the medium. Without striving for effect, Assayas is happy to let the material speak for itself. And what a magnificent achievement it is. The film deals with ideas of tradition and family heritage, using a house and garden as a metaphor for cultural memory.
Hélène (Edith Scob) lives in a rambling mansion full of art: Corot landscapes, Redon panels, a variety of rare and valuable objects, and her own uncle’s paintings. On her seventy-fifth birthday, her three grown children arrive to celebrate the happy milestone. Frédéric (Charles Berling) is an economist. The younger son, Jérémie (Jérémie Renier), has relocated to Shanghai with his family, where he manufactures running shoes. And finally, there is the dark and brooding Adrienne (Juliette Binoche), a successful designer who now lives in New York.
Assayas assembles this group and then delicately begins to explore them as individuals. Events force Hélène’s children to make a series of decisions that have everything to do with their shared sense of the past. What to do with all of these memories and objects that define them and in a sense create their identity? Can all this be discarded? What at first appears to be a simple decision they make together turns into something much thornier. As unexpected emotions surface among the siblings, they discover that they have changed and now aspire to different things. How these tensions are resolved is the subject of this intimate drama.
Summer Hours is a work of great lyrical power, and Assayas shows an extraordinary control of place and character, bringing the two into beautiful harmony. Incisively written, superbly acted by some of France’s finest performers and displaying a delicately understated approach to the subject matter, Assayas’s film moves effortlessly through its narrative with all the grace of Renoir at the height of his powers.