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  • 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 fine objects.

    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.
  • 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
  • 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!
  • 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:
  • jotix10018 August 2009
    Warning: 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.
  • Interesting, gentle sad (but not depressing) story of the inevitability of loss and chance.

    Three siblings decide whether to keep or sell their mother's country home and art collection after her death, exploring how we give 'things' meaning, and how that meaning changes due to context, generation, and what we need from them.

    But while the ideas are intriguing, and the acting good it never quite reached the deepest level of feeling or thoughtfulness for me.

    Called a masterpiece by a number of critics, and something close by others, I cant quite go there, but it is an intelligent, quietly moving experience, that I'll probably revisit yet again, since it grew on me on a second viewing.
  • home-13326 July 2008
    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.
  • tieman6422 August 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    "Summer Hours" begins, appropriately, with hordes of children running joyfully through a garden. They're on a treasure hunt, following a map written in invisible ink.

    Director Olivier Assays then introduces us to Helene Berthier, an elderly woman whose children and grandchildren have gathered at her home in rural France. Helene was once romantically linked to a character called Paul, a now dead artist who was renowned for his paintings.

    Helene's home is filled with both Paul's work (a vast collection of priceless art) and more mundane personal items which nevertheless have tremendous sentimental value. One photograph, for example, features an older generation of Berthiers sitting at a table exactly as the current generation are.

    As the film unfolds, Assayas lays the groundwork for various heavy themes: the way what we "treasure" changes as we age, how art and objects tie people to the past, the relationship between art, globalisation and commerce, the seemingly arbitrary and shifting "value" of objects, the question of what defines art and what makes art meaningful, how spaces are "deterritorialized" and "reterritorialized" under capitalism, how objects transform as they move from space to space etc etc. You might say this is the "rural" version of Assayas's "Demonlover", "Clean" and "Boarding Gate", but whilst those films focused on the way humans are stripped, sold, traded and pushed around under techno-capitalism, "Summer Hours" focuses almost entirely on man's fluctuating relationship with both inanimate objects and product.

    Early in the film, Helene reveals the reason for calling a family assembly: she wants to discuss the fate of the family estate after her death. Frederic, Helene's eldest son, is an economist, and is the only family member who wishes (for sentimental reasons) to hold on to the estate and its artwork. Daughter Adrienne (a product designer) and younger son Jeremie (who works for a mega corporation in Shaghai) both want to sell the estate. It's of no value to them, they won't be able to visit it as they work far abroad, and it simply isn't economical to maintain. Frederic doesn't agree with them at first, but gradually the practical needs of commerce infringe on his desire to hold on to the past. Reluctantly he agrees with them. Significantly, Adrienne, the product of a system which destroys the past and sells nostalgic copies, makes tacky ceramic ornaments based on the designs of her uncle.

    Assayas stresses that the children are all ultra-modern bourgeois, part of a "new France" that is beholden to the demands of the global market and that is gradually losing ties with its traditions and heritage. Casual remarks highlight this theme: characters speaking of new companies popping up in their village, once taboo romantic relationships accepted as the norm, the fact that Adrienne lives in two of the citadels of Global Capitalism (New York and Japan), the fact that Jeremie is moving his family to China to better manage a mass production shoe factory and the mention that Jeremie's children will learn English and not speak French (thereby cutting them off from their cultural roots).

    Ironically, it's the one economist in the family who can't cope with the way his family, culture and historical treasure trove are being torn apart. Frederic frequently states that he believes the "economy as a functional system" is a myth. He recognises that economism is the new global religion, in which the world is reordered in the service of irrational and incessant growth. The dominant theology of this religion is neo-liberalism, which aims to make the whole world a single market, national boundaries no longer a factor in economic affairs. Unlike most religions, economism looks to growth for salvation, salvation being "freedom" from poverty and the ills that accompany it. When it is pointed out that the "new religion" has not in fact done much toward reducing poverty, believers are told that they must be more faithful to the precepts of the religion.

    Of course while the believers wait, the machine's greed outgrows the capacity of the real economy to satisfy. In response, the great centres of finance get the governments of the world to make available to them, by privatisation, all of their possessions. But still this does not suffice! How could it? Debt based Ponzi schemes cannot be satiated. And so the market becomes increasingly abstract, debts ignored or traded as "value" whilst virtual economies balloon to something like five times the size of the "real" economy. The end result is the world Assayas' characters find themselves in: groundless and always moving to keep the whole sham from collapsing.

    In one scene, Frederic proudly displays paintings for his children, telling them that one day the collection will be all theirs. But though his kids look up at the artwork with indifference, implying that they are "cut off" from the "treasures of the past", Assayas is careful to show that Frederic is himself deluded, unable to look upon the pictures without bias. His pleasure is clearly less about the aesthetic qualities of art/past, than it is about family legacy, memory and the continuation of a family history. His children, able to look at the paintings without bias, simply dismiss them as old-fashioned. The result is that the film manages to mourns the obliteration/repackaging of the past whilst also questioning if anything is really being lost. Does the worth of an object reside only in the historical and familial remembrances of concerned individuals?

    The film ends with a sequence which mirrors its first shot. Here Helene's granddaughter looks on at the abandoned family home, trying but failing to position her body such that it recreates a "painting of the place" that Paul once did. It's a deeply sad ending; no longer connected by shared place or possessions, the modern subject is both adrift and defined by loss.

    8.9/10 – A great film, though perhaps too word oriented.
  • writers_reign18 July 2008
    Warning: 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.
  • A film about talented rich people squabbling, albeit very gently, about an inheritance would normally be a candidate to make my hackles rise. But 'Summer Hours' is a sensitive, subtle movie, that explores non-judgmentally what is important to us, and why: in short, how we define our emotional identities. The characters seem likable, but display an ordinary selfishness, and the film lightly samples the passions that make each of them tick. It's a very wordy movie, so much so, it could almost have been a stage play, but the director has a great sense of place, evoking his characters own feelings for place and the movie never feels heavy. In one sense, the ending is a touch underwhelming; but in keeping with the film's overall style. I liked it, a lot: the sort of film that only the French seem to make.
  • cultfilmfan15 October 2009
    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.
  • 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.
  • This is quite the solemn experience, much like Antonioni's "L'Avventura". A family gathers around the grand-mère of the family in the country, the keeper of artwork by a great, late artist. She keeps telling her children what should go where once she's gone, too. The family image is special, and the direction is sublime in the extreme; where my Hollywood sense of watching films is painfully blown-up, I felt that this film told it like it should be, in a way; it took me on a journey. I could not help but feel that part of it was filled with symbolism and free will, real characters and a sense of laissez-faire. The direction is so very simple, yet I think it's sleight of hand; it's probably really hard work behind this. All in all: beautiful.
  • Michael Fargo22 May 2009
    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.
  • We've sat through various characters contemplate decisions on screen throughout the history of cinema. Some have been more heart-breaking than others, others have been measured and contemplative – most have gone on to greatly affect these characters as well as those around them. We've witnessed the titular Umberto Domenico, in a 1950s Italian film entitled "Umberto D.", face a terrible predicament wherein he may or may not have to say goodbye to his faithful pet, whom he loves and has spent the best part of post-War Italy following him around as a lone companion. Others have been more reflective, and much more recent. We've observed a character very few people have anything bad to say about in Jules Winnfield, Samuel L. Jackson's African American hit-man in Tarantino's 1994 film Pulp Fiction, go through a dialogue driven sequence wherein Winnfield weighs up what he's doing in life through an absorbing exchange. We've seen characters snap, the likes of Bickle deciding to do what he did and we've seen decisions act as the centre piece of a film's drama as twelve angry men go through the motions to reach one of two conclusions: guilty, or not guilty. Now witness a film whose sole purpose is to revolve around rich, intelligent, successful middle aged people torn between keeping a bunch of artwork and remaining rich or selling it all and becoming that little bit richer. Witness Olivier Assayas' film. Witness a stain on French cinema. Witness entering a hundred minutes of cinematic Hell. Witness Summer Hours.

    Yes, it really is that bad; that trudging; that frustrating and that ill-conceived. It's not that Assayas doesn't have any material with which to work in Summer Hours; on the contrary, he has a large family beginning at the top with its eldest member, in Edith Scob's Hélène, which fritters down to the infant grandchildren by way of sons and daughters and their marital partners – it's just that he resists doing anything with them, and resists taking them anywhere. People SPEAK of travelling great distances, or going places, but little is actually ventured nor really learnt. We begin at an isolated summer house with each of these respective relatives enjoying the birthday festivities to that of Hélène, their host. This woman still lives in the old family home, and coming back for these summer functions is a home-coming for her now adult children. In the home is her vast collection of art and paintings, something she speaks of enthusiastically – for her sons and daughters, one assumes seeing them again brings back an odd nostalgia one can often have for art, perhaps films from one's childhood. Perhaps they don't, the idea that forms of art can induce these sorts of responses regardless of its form isn't explored.

    Assayas wastes away a solid forty five or so minutes during this opening, and how one could claim that he has done anything else other than waste our time would be extraordinary. These people sit around, they talk; they eat; they loiter with their life partners; they smoke – we can only snooze. It is quite extraordinary, in fact, just how little happens with so many people on screen – there is no narrative, no attention to character and the family all seem to get along with each other quite well. I think a point is made as to how spread out Hélène's offspring are, in terms of what they do and where they work - Juliette Binoche's Adrienne works in America for a Japanese company, while another son has work opportunities in China on the horizon which will result in holidays of what's he doing now, only in the likes of Bali. Thus, the juxtaposition between a more modern world, where no one really needs to belong anywhere; borders become greyer by the day and nationalities of companies, people and where they're based might as well be anywhere, with little old Hélène in her old manor house from a time that was simpler and more grounded, is made.

    Again, with little exploration – why should we care? It has these pretensions to be about changing times but in essence, just comes off as a total bore that's grossly misjudged in its application of this grounded approach and desire to spread out the character study to as many people of this family as possible. The event kick starting whatever study or chain of events Assayas thinks he's telling arrives with Hélène's death, something that instigates talk between the siblings of selling the old family home and the treasures therein; a decision to sell off these people's childhood at a time in their lives when they've already started families; moved abroad and riddled themselves of their infant-hood anyway. What little conflict there is arrives in the form of Éloïse (Sadoyan), a younger sister to the bulk of the kids who doesn't have as much of an input and would be truly victimised should the property be sold. It is quite remarkable that the film's central dilemma sees these people bickering with one another over whether earning extraordinary amounts of money through the selling of these things, or continuing to live the affluent lifestyle they have anyway, is at the core of proceedings. To say it is monumentally misjudged is an understatement; to say that it's a mite offensive would be to tell the truth, so say that a film is offensive AND boring would be to accuse a project of perpetrating a crime against cinema. Unfortunately, Assayas has done exactly that and bestowed upon us a crime for which few punishments would be enough.
  • Outside of the few film segments featuring the exuberance and playfulness of children and adolescents, the remainder of this film consists largely of half-baked characters and unsurprising dialog -- involving an upper-crust 'art society'-type family and their coveted material things (of inheritance). I was unable to get behind the (too predictable, ho-hum) characters, unoriginal story line, and tiring moving camera: I dropped out after about 45 minutes of careful viewing and then selectively fast-forwarded through the rest. This is one of those films which seems to have surfaced from a combination of ample production assets plus a lack of creative vision. Furthermore, many cinephiles like me are tired of encountering 'too familiar' actors in films; instead, we much prefer to be exposed to fresh, even unprofessional, talent. Major film directors Rossellini, Pasolini, and Bunuel, for example, were fully aware of the filmic (and economic) value of using unknown/lesser-known actors -- and they did so often to great effect. Binoche and Berling are fine actors, but as with Tom Hanks and Gwyneth Paltrow, hey, we're just plain tired of the lack of intrigue such overly recognizable (and therefore somewhat predictable) actors bring to the screen. On a related note, Alan Ball, the academy award-winning screenwriter of American Beauty, once said, "I can't write characters that have no flaws; they don't seem real." Summer Hours does eventually expose character flaws (or call it human nature), but the flaws are embodied by characters of a kind that discerning viewers may find difficult to believe, care about, or relate to. Not enough existential intrigue or human diversity here: too much stale white bread to chew on.
  • This film has little, if any, merit. I do not think it was the film maker's intention, but it turns out to provide a strong case for the abolition of a whole class in society, namely the bourgeoisie. I guess in that case you could argue that it serves a useful purpose.

    The only character to elicit any sympathy is the housekeeper Eloise, whose part is regrettably small. The rest of the characters are two dimensional and not even Frederic, played by Charles Berling and the nearest any actor comes to a protagonist, is given much depth.

    I hesitated before ticking the 'contains spoiler' box as there is virtually no plot to spoil. There is no dramatic tension and no interesting contrasts or tensions between the actors, despite generational and career differences, and the fact that Frederic, an economist based in Paris, finds himself in a minority regarding his mother's estate, is fairly easy to anticipate. The only reason you would want to meet any member of this family is to steal one of their valuable objets d'art.

    The direction and photography are plodding. Art would appear to be central concern of the film maker but the cinematography is so poor that for instance we never get to properly see the two paintings by Corot or fully appreciate the other art objects and pieces of furniture that end up in the Musee d'Orsay.

    There is no interesting philosophical case, within the dialogue or otherwise, for works of art being displayed in museums or kept at home or sold at auction despite these matters being the main subject of the dialogue during much of the film. There is actually something rather dead and depressing about the whole movie even the children are feckless, and maybe that is the director's intention. I left the cinema feeling I had been neither entertained, nor my mind stimulated.

    I hope that this dull film is not representative of current French cinema. Don't waste your time or money watching it.
  • Maybe it was the constant mention of designer art's items, supposedly of great value and extremely beautiful, which I found inane. Or it may have been its slowness, or its lack of emotional meaning to me. The case is that I think this film lacks "soul", "purpose" or even "beauty". I liked the way the 3 generations view differently their relationship with things. The older generation valued and lived with Art. The middle aged successful professionals strive between personal attachment to one item or another, and their need for money to develop their professional and personal lives. And the young... the only part that I thought meant something -although it wasn't very nice to look at- was near the end, at the teenager's party, one of the grandsons said, when confronted to the Corot paintings: (uninvolved and trying to be diplomatic) "they belong to another age". His parent Frédéric didn't seem to notice, but there lied the heart of the issue. The youngsters play ball inside the formerly beautiful French country mansion, listen to horrible rap speaking of social violence, or bubble gum female pop, smoke marijuana, drink heavily, behave and look like they didn't care anything for whatever could be inside the D'Orsay museum or something.

    Demagogy: Of course on the other hand you have the daughter, who besides shoplifting and having awful manners shows she's sensitive for her grandma and has longings for the house. I thought that unlikely and unwarranted by what we see of her before. And the about 5 times we get to see "the phone that the sons gave for the mum and didn't fix for her". Hey, who hasn't forgotten something for somebody who loves, specially when in a hurry and while dealing with difficult issues like succession planning? I think I'd be hard to accuse specially the emotional Frédéric of not loving the elegant Éloïse! Or the maid "attempting in vain to enter the mansion, and then, beleaguered, leaving some flowers in her tomb". OK, she is faithful even on the afterlife, but I found the portrayal of it rather leftish like "only the poor have true feelings, and don't care for the money (when she takes 'only a flower pot') and are well bred (the moving letter even the devoted son didn't make himself time to answer) and who have perfectly good feelings (the emotional relative with the cab, leaving her at her mono block housing). By the way, Isabelle Sadoyan plays the part of Éloïse very convincingly! A distinguished lady who says, at the most beautiful image of the film by far: "When I die, so will my secrets, that interest no one" (the scene with blue lighting, at dusk). Her character has some Chabrolesque undertones. I mean "the upper classes who hold some secrets in the sake of moral respectability", "big mansions of the elite holding rather selfish people". Her daughter Adrienne seemed to take after the mother in the manipulativeness and ironic remarks like "this is a true present" and her rant against globalization and Jérémie's business. The mother at least has class! Anyway, Binoche is convincing at her unlikeable character, totally different to her usual "beauty at 40" ones.

    I enjoyed the director's Les Destinées sentimentales way more. At least that was a true melodrama, with beautiful settings and old fashioned feelings. I'm afraid he could have done here something more authentic,

    for instance, as "the decadence of values" -like the house itself-. Instead, he obviously feels like Frédéric who says to his wife something awfully stupid about works of art "having to live in the proprietor's house, for the seem 'trapped' in a museum". Even if it's true that most museum goers don't care much for what they're force fed like hamster: a) They could have sold them. The high tax they have to endure is an accident of French bureaucracy, not a moral imperative. Besides, b) how many people enjoy works that way (in private collections, like F. extols)? For instance, how many people would have enjoyed, say, this wooden desk had it remained at their haughty house? So if you want to be a socialist like most French intellos do, I think it'd be at least more coherent that they accept "socialized" art instead of harping on a romantic vision of "art for those who 'really value it' that besides being rather arbitrary and potentially 'fascist', it is rather self-centered and childish.

    Overall, I think this film delivers much less than what it promises. But, as always, it's better than the average US blockbuster, that's for sure!
  • All of the reviews that I read raved about the great beauty of this film. I'm not sure which drugs they were on. By far, of all the French films I have ever seen, and I have seen many, this was the most tedious, uninviting piece of dullard dross I have ever seen.

    Firstly, the woman this entire pointless venture revolves around, does nil, nothing to endear us to her in the first 20 minutes or so of the film. She's a self-absorbed, ungrateful, miserable and unappealing 'aged' woman who decides that she'll wallow in her misery when there's no one around to keep her entertained. (A 'supposed' illicit love story, which may have put some spark into this crap never really revealed itself into more than a couple of sentences.) Yawn.

    So when the film moves on after her death, I had high hopes. Perhaps the thing was going to show some real character... perhaps the children she has left behind will actually show some personality, some vivacity, some drama, some individuality, ANYTHING!!!!!! Nope, dull, boring, sanitised people with dull, boring sanitised lives all meandering around sobbing over sticks of furniture and ugly art and furniture that appeals as much as cheap tinker market junk; visiting it in the museum after it saves them 'death taxes' and bemoaning the loss of 'their' house, now sold.

    To top this carnage of anything even remotely interesting off, the house sold, these same morons allow the grandchildren, now in their bored, abberant, dope-smoking teens, the most boring type of teens available to mankind, to have a 'last' party in a house which no longer belongs to them, so that their little rave party may leave some kind of parting message, possibly just hundreds and hundreds of discarded beer cans, condoms and rubbish for some poor new owner to clean up. Wow. And all with a parting shot of some of the worst overacting by a teen I would never remember as an actor in a million years.

    Biggest waste or money, time and my brain power in my life. Nothing here touched me in the slightest. The music was terrible, when they bothered, the characters so sanitised of anything that might make them personable that I am almost witless with boredom by this stage and the only thing which might have given this dross some interest, the beautiful exterior of the old house and gardens, we ended up seeing for about 10 seconds.

    Don't waste your time unless you have trouble sleeping.
  • This film's plot and dialogue largely center on artists, designers, and their work -- paintings, sketchbooks, sculptures, and high-design furniture, display cases, armoires and vases, and the question of retaining, donating, or selling these rare and rarefied items after its owner dies.

    Sophisticated visual objects are the core of the movie, yet its own appearance is surprisingly nondescript. Far more often than not, the cinematography seems haphazard or banal, as though its only purpose was to depict the actors speaking in this very talky film, or follow them around when they move. Its esthetic lacks visual ambition or a compositional point of view.

    The art objects that are so important to the plot are treated indifferently -- we rarely see them depicted well or fully. No wonder that a majority of the deceased's children don't care about these treasures -- the director and cinematographer don't seem to either.

    Is all this a subliminal way for the director to suggest that art is highfalutin', and less important than people?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    What a near perfect movie! We watched this intellectual, insightful film this afternoon and both of us immediately put it into our "memorable" set of movies that will stay with us for years. As with most French films that I have seen, it is a knowing, gentle examination of those terribly mundane events that humanity passes through on its way to a new reality. I wish other filmmakers could metamorphose reality into an art form beyond the real; the French seem to have this very unique ability to instill greatness into something that is experienced by all of us but the magic lies in the examination.

    What a mundane tale: three kids dividing up their mother's estate; what could be more common but in the hands of an excellent director and actors, the story becomes knowing and gentle and for the audience, something delightfully memorable. The editing of the script's time frame through months before and after the mother's death becomes critical to the seamless flow of the story and I believe the director's hand plays a knowingly large role in the eventual beauty of the outcome.

    I believe this film to be one of those beautiful movies that deal with the extremely delicate subject of the passage of time and I would highly recommend it.
  • This film, unfortunately is just another one of those sentimental and kitchy 'French' family dramas, bourgeois of course. With a camera that can't keep still for a second, that always has to follow one or the other person uttering platitudes over platitudes trying to inject 'energy' into a very very dead script. Not to mention the myriads of 'stories' told here - stories that are faster dropped and forgotten as one can count to two. There is absolutely no substance and sugar-coating will not make the cake taste any better.

    And before anyone starts pondering why the hell this film acts and looks like a commercial, here's the spill: it is a commercial. The 'work' was commissioned by Paris' Musee d'Orsay! Why a state-owned and tax-financed museum finds it has to go into the movie business doesn't even deserve a discussion - it's a bad joke. The bureaucrats in this museum - as one can see in this film - seem so utterly bored they think movie glamor is going to help them.

    A very sad tale indeed.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I'll save you two hours: the mother dies, the brother and sister move away and the main character sells the house. That literally captures everything that happens. This is a no-drama drama - there are no fistfights, no screaming, almost no conflict of any kind. There are a small number of subplots that suddenly materialize and then go absolutely nowhere. I can only recommend it for fans of that dizzying shaky hand-held camera cinematography that is unnecessarily employed in these type of arty films. At a loss to explain the glowing reviews of the outing. Maybe the sequel (call it "Autumn Hours") will offer a little more entertainment.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It's a shame that we are required to write a minimum of 10 lines when reviewing a film because I cannot think of 10 lines worth of comment to make about this extremely dull film. My friend and I left half way through.

    A bourgeois family get together after their art collecting mother has died, and proceed to discuss various 'beautiful' objects she has left behind. This is presented without any irony whatsoever, as though initially at least, we are supposed to identify with these empty people or care about their useless objectified lives. I kept waiting for something to happen which would seriously disrupt proceedings - maybe there would be a revolution or one of them would get seriously maimed by an anarchist bomb.

    Unfortunately not.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    What really caught my attention in this movie is the phrase spoken by the family's maid (Heloise) after the death of Helen (the matriarch Family) "What would I do with a work of art?" It seems that this sentence is intentional and has scope for tinkering with the head of the spectator; "What to do with a work of art?" Imagine: If Frederic Chopin heaved kept until nowadays all his compositions, just for his own pleasure, just for his family pleasure and just for his friends pleasure ... Do you imagine? Mutatis mutandis a work of art, be a mobile, a painting or a sculpture can not be kept "for my eyes only" and those should be shown for all the world see ... And one more question: - Can "the classic" be put side to side with "the modern"?

    Indeed, in several scenes of that movie, there is always the "modern" counterpointing to the "classic", for example: in the kitchen of the "centennial maison" there is a refrigerator; in the paths that lead to the "maison" no more "coaches" are seen, but modern cars; the characters indulge themselves with wine glasses, just as their ancestors did. As for cinematography, they remembered me several paintings by Renoir, extracting all its bucolic landscape ... Juliette Binoche - no surprise - masterfully composed his character: modern woman (just as Hélène) who practically lives for his work and "running" for several countries ... La France (toujours La France...) gives us this wonderful movie to be tasted "doucement" as a "Gran Crú Classée" deserves ... On a scale of 0 to 10, classify the film score of 9.
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