Monday, May 25, 2009

Film Review: Summer Hours, a French Film

Film Review: Summer Hours
Director: Olivier Assayas
Released in France in 2008
In the US, May, 2009

by Eric Green

Did you ever want to get a hold of a film director and scream at him? Well, the director for "Summer Hours" deserves that treatment.

Here was another well acted and well filmed, cinematography, French film about human relations, based on art work and the long cultural commitment the French have to art and the preservation of art.

In this film, the matriarch of a family of two men and a woman, and grandchildren, is faced with her 75th birthday and clearly a fear of death not to far around the corner. After meeting the whole family and the painter to whom the matriarch was tied to, you settled in to see where the director takes you.

Well, after a trip to San Francisco, she does die and the family comes together for the funeral in Paris and at the very nice summer home that they every loves. But, alas, two of the kids see their future in New York and Beijing. This is sort of a new thing for the French to emigrant like that.

That left the remaining son to sort out, once the basic decisions were made, the family affairs. He was also the sibling with the most attachment to the summerhouse.

There is a great set of scenes at the d' Orsay Museum in France where many of the painter's effects will be donated and displayed. The director takes to the back of the museum to see the preservation artists, etc. In fact, when the movie audience is first shown the d'Orsay, a hush could be heard from them. That museum, the repository of many of the most famous impressionist artists, is truly a destination for international visitors.

Too bad the film then settles into a sort of soap opera genre' with the children of the remaining son getting into school troubles. The director seems to also toy with the idea of making the film a documentary styled film. All of which is nice, but the main topic of the film is kicked to the side of the road.

The acting was, of course excellent. Lead by Juliette Binoche as Adrianne the daughter slated for New York living. She will be setting up family shop with, the character played by Kyle Eastwood. He makes another cameo appearance as a love interest. Remember, he played a similar role in his father's "Grand Torino" film. Edith Scob plays the matriarch Helene'; Charles Berling and Jeremie Renier play the two brothers. Isabelle Sadoyan plays the loyal housekeeper, Eloise.

Looking for a lighthearted film with a little bit of seriousness, this is the film for you. Too bad, it could have been a more significant film.