Friday, June 5, 2009

Summer Hours (L'heure d'ete)

"Summer Hours" is a skillfully but tiredly made film caught in an ocean of melodrama and disconnect. It's about a French woman (Edith Scob) who has a ton of valuable pieces of art (display cases, paintings, vases), and how her family reacts and deals with her death. It's a movie with very limited potential that doesn't get that far since it's not that interesting and kind of dreary. It shares many similarities with last years much better "A Christmas Tale," not only because of its reunion-based structure and French roots, but because Emile Berling has parts in both films, the one in the former being much more significant. The other piece has an advantage because of two things: a standout performance (by Mathieu Almaric) and a story of much more dramatic weight, interest, and connection.

Here, the plot could possibly be done well with (since it has kind of an interesting idea, like my friend said and others said, about how art has lost significance, and it has that whole grand family thing going on; if only it was a little more interesting), but Olivier Assayas is content with leaving it at ground level, and that's not enough. The three children, Adrienne (Juliette Binoche), Jeremie (Jeremie Renier), and Frederic (Charles Berling, who I bet has some relation to Emile) all seem to be straying from their mother. Frederic is the one that Helene (the mom) wants most of the assorted art to stay with, since he stays in France most of the time and the other two are mostly around the globe. Frederic is most devoted to the inheritance, and he thinks it's a fine idea to keep the house in the family. The other two disagree, wanting to auction off most of the art. Apparently, Jeremie needs money, but the movie hardly goes into that beyond a couple of words. There is also the subplot of Frederic and his rebellious, doobie-smoking daughter (no, this does not imply the film is of the "marijgenre"), and also of the maid Eloise and her ties to the house and ex-owner. These plots were cliche and sentimental, respectively.

I thought the most interesting facet of the film was the supposedly fictional artist at its core, one that Helene apparently had some sort of incestuous relationship with (the artist is her uncle). Most of the valuable art is his creation, but the film is much less about him. It's more about the auctioning of the art (which is super-duper-EXCITING). Is this enough to make a movie about? Not really. I've grown to expect at least little more out of cinema. C

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