L'Heure d'été (Summer Hours) Reviews
Oliver Assayas has seemed to take the easy way out. His films are often not the most dramatic, but there tends to be unique flavor and wit to them that seem sadle absent here.
The flick tries to hide subtle meanings behind all the non-drama, but either hides most of it too well or then is a bit clumsy in the act. This didn't really carry any weight, even for someone who has been in the depicted situation himself.
This is a wonderful film that speaks about the importance of art, and what it means to a person in an intimate level. It is only when art is in our possession and had the opportunity to live with it, that we truly are able to appreciate it and create our own interpretation on it. When going to the museum or gallery to observe art, no matter what form it is, the connection with it is never as deep as the ones who made it or have been in the presence of it during all their lives. This film helped me open my eyes to that and how truly important art is in a familial level.
The film also explores the idea that children would eventually grow up and have their own lives and responsibilities, which would then affect their ability to spend more time with their parents, and I found this to be truly heartbreaking because I have seen things like this happen in families, and it is not that the child doesn't want to go back and visit or help but it's because they have others who depend on them which would tie them down, no matter how much their love for the parents are. It's even more heartbreaking because I know within myself that this would be inevitable, and that my responsibilities would be elsewhere. Sometimes it's not about children sending money to their parents in order for them to get by, but it's the warmth of company that they want, to be with them just before they pass.
The film's cinematography and music cues were great, truly making the film's motionless story and low amount of elevated tension seem interesting. Just scenes of chatter between the siblings were fun to watch, and the camera captures it in a way that has the audience feel as emotionally charged and involved as the characters.
The film's acting was marvellous, featuring strong performances from all of its leads. Edith Scob was only in the film roughly around 20-25 minutes but she stole the show with each moment she was in, she was able to project this sense of understanding that tragedy would come to her very soon and she was able to show so much of herself and her perspective of her children during a scene where she sits alone with the blue light from the moon gazing upon her. Charles Berling as Frederic was the film's main protagonist after Edith Scob's character passes away, and he does a great job in carrying the film's emotional core. He was able to give many shades of the character, experience a range of emotions after his mother's death, and he delivers this in ways that doesn't feel contrived. Juliette Binoche as Adrienne was also great to watch here but since her character isn't as focused as Berling's character then she does come out in the end as a bit overshadowed. This wouldn't be the film I would go to in telling others of her wonderful talent as an actress, I would instead use films like Blue and Certified Copy. Jeremie Renier was also pleasing to watch but like Binoche his role was a bit overshadowed and felt more like a support in elevating the performances of the other actors in the scene.
Summer Hours is a near perfect film that explores art and family in an effective way. It was able to let me reflect on my own personal feelings about family and how my vision of my future would impact the people around me, particularly my parents and sibling. This is definitely something I could see myself coming back to time and time again in the future.
In dealing with a sentimental demise of a bourgeoise matriarch, who resides in a suburban villa near Paris with all her uncle's art menagerie and his worthwhile sketching books (apparently he was a renowned painter himself and an unspeakable family secret), Assayas infills an indefatigable stamina to keep all the delicate matters in a civil restraint, the contradiction abounds among three siblings in regard to keep or sell the villa; and the proceedings of donating valuable art pieces has also been a bumpy road; for the elder son, he also has teenage children to worry about, and last but not the least, his abiding remembrance of the past is the most poignant blow to one who can fit into his shoes under the circumstances.
The show has never been slid into a thespians' melodrama notwithstanding the fact that its indulgence of a top-billing Gallic cast, a blonde Binoche incarnates a very light-touch casualness as the metropolitan daughter, living in USA and dedicates herself more in bringing the work of art abroad for the international exposure; Renier, the younger son, finds both an opportunity in settling down in China and an exigent situation in which the profit of selling the villa couldn't come as timely as possible. While these two are soon-to-be-goners, without a pinch yearning for their homeland, the liability all falls on the elder brother (Berling), whose true-to-life embodiment of his character anchors the film's backbone in a concrete formality, it is a prickly situation will come about to anyone eventually. Edith Scob, as the deceased mother, whose first 30-minutes appearance contrives to establish herself as an indomitable shadow encroached by the past, when she is gone, something else will be taken with her together and forever, Scob is pitch perfect in her role's demanding of the physical infirmity, an unswerving mind of knowing her time is up and the duty as a bequeather.
I have not conceal my preference to this quiet, reflective lifelike imitation than other more grandstanding razzle-dazzle, it is a simple film with a concise message delivered eloquently by the mastery of Assayas who auspiciously shoulders on the privilege of an auteur not only in the French terrain, but also as an international landmark, like many of his precedent compatriots.