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With: Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jérémie Renier, Edith Scob, Dominique Reymond, Valérie Bonneton, Isabelle Sadoyan, Kyle Eastwood, Alice de Lencquesaing, Emile Berling, Jean-Baptiste Malartre, Gilles Arbona
Written by: Olivier Assayas
Directed by: Olivier Assayas
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 103
Date: 03/05/2008
IMDB

Summer Hours (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

House Proud

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The French critic-turned-filmmaker Olivier Assayas has a fairly schizophrenic track record, jumping from slick, ultra-hip movies (Irma Vep, Demonlover) to more traditional intellectual arthouse exercises (Late August, Early September; Les destinées). With Summer Hours, he has turned in his Eric Rohmer film, and the result is surprisingly wonderful, as if Assayas finally found a space in which to stretch out.

Three grown siblings (played by Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling and Jeremie Renier) live scattered all over the world, but they manage to visit their mother in her beautiful French country home at least once a year. The movie starts on such a visit, but the mother (Edith Scob) keeps talking about dying and making sure that the children know about all the valuable art objects in the house. Lo and behold, she does pass away, and the siblings are faced with the problem of whether or not to sell the house and its prizes, and if so, how to sell them. There are taxes to consider, and export fees, and not to mention the two little paintings that Frédéric (Berling) treasures but won't be able to afford to buy back.

If it sounds dull, it's really not. Like Rohmer, Assayas stages many dialogue scenes in which characters intellectually try to justify their actions, but the more they talk, the less gets solved; the drama happens in the very dialogue itself. It helps that these are some of the finest actors on the planet (especially Binoche) and they sink into an absolutely organic place of sibling relations. The final result is unexpectedly, gorgeously moving.

Blu-Ray Details: The Criterion Collection has bestowed their blessing on this wonderful film with new DVD and Blu-Ray editions for 2010. The Blu-Ray looks incomparably gorgeous, as if summer itself had suddenly arrived in my living room. It comes with three featurettes: an interview with the director, a making-of documentary, and a documentary about the art in the film. Critic Kent Jones provides the in-depth liner notes for the booklet, though just about any critic in the land would have gladly done the same; in some circles, Summer Hours was the highest acclaimed film of 2009.