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Monday, May 11, 2009

SUMMER HOURS (L"HEURE D'ETE)

By D.E.Levine

Director: Olivier Assayas
Produced: Marin Karmitz, Nathanael Karmitz, Charles Gilbert
Executive Producer: Claire Dornoy in association with Musee d'Orsay
Screenplay: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Charles Bering, Jeremie Renier, Edith Scob, Dominique Reymond, Valerie Bonneton, Isabelle Sadoyan, Kyle Eastwood, Alice de Lencquesaing, and Emile Berling
Genre: Drama
Country of Origin: France
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Language: French with English subtitles

Instead of a loud, boisterous action film like so many this summer, L'heure d'ete is a quiet, beautiful film about three siblings (two brothers and a sister) dealing with their mother's legacy.

The film opens with the Helene, the matriarch's grandchildren on a treasure hunt at her house during the summer. The family, which doesn't gather frequently, is celebrating Helene's 75th birthday and she has a foreboding that her end is near.

During the celebration she wants to discuss the dispersion of her possessions once she's gone . Frederic, an economist who lives closest to his mother has a romanticized feeling about the house as well as about his mother. Adrienne, the daughter, lives with her American boyfriend in New York. Jeremie, the other brother, is a sneaker manufacturer who has relocated with his family to China. While Frederic wants to keep the house, his siblings are less inclined to do so for financial and geographical reasons.

We learn that Helene has always diminished her late husband's memory while turning the house into a shrine to her late uncle, a moderately distinguished figurative artist. Helene appeals to Frederic to keep her belongings together as a collection once she has passed, feeling that he is the most solid and reliable of the family.

The next time we see the family together Helene has passed and they are meeting to dispose of the house and its contents. Unable to afford to buy his siblings out, Frederic is shattered by the need for everything to be donated or sold. We see them at the house as summer turns to fall and representatives from the Musee d'Orsay visit the house to appraise the contents.

Although his children won't be able to enjoy the house and summer vacations the way he and his brother and sister did, Frederic fails to realize that regardless of ownership of the house, ownership of the memories continues unbroken and he will always have them whether he has the house or not.

The film explores the connection between art and life. Developments are measured between different generations with sibling squabbling over their inheritance deliberately softened to explore how each set of children and grandchildren transform and deal with the family's internal conflicts that are inherited and transformed.

The film begins and ends at the house, and Sylvie, Frederic's teenage daughter remains the one constant. At the start of the film we see Sylvie in the idealized world her father holds dear while at the end we see her acting very much as a girl her age would act once freed from the constraints of her parents and grandmother and holding a student party before the villa is claimed by the new owners.