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Summer Hours (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (Version française) [Import]

Juliette Binoche , Charles Berling , Olivier Assayas    Unrated   Blu-ray
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Most helpful customer reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
A family returns home to celebrate the birthday of their aging mother. Their ancestral home is like a living museum, containing the works of her uncle, a celebrated painter, and of so many other important artists. Before long, she will be gone, and she knows that the treasures she had accumulated and preserved will no longer remain intact. It is a subtle story of a family, like all families, with things that are left unsaid but need to be spoken, with expectations that cannot possibly be fulfilled. It is told here by Oliver Assayas with a remarkably light touch, with a beautiful palette, a fluid camera and seamless edits. The acting is pitch-perfect throughout - it doesn't feel like acting.

I couldn't help but think of this as a lighter counterpoint to the more melancholy, but more playful and inventive, A Christmas Tale by Arnaud Desplechin, whose sensibilities strike me as similar to those of Assayas - both films deal with similar issues of inheritance, of loss, of communication failures, and yet, while this film is less deliberately avant-garde than that one, it feels every bit as profound and yet more delicate, more subtle. In addition to displaying the changes in France over generations, the film reflects on larger questions. At what point do personal relics, a desk, a vase, a display case used as a kind of closet, become cultural artefacts? To whom can art belong? What is the connection between usage and display value of an artwork? What makes it art, after all?

I caught this during its theatrical release, but am very happy to hear it is being released by Criterion.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars manifique! June 25 2011
By Brian Maitland TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
Yes, this is an "art" fillum and it is French so it's not for everyone, but bear with me on both scores. The art in this movie is actual art that three siblings inherit along with their family home after their mother dies. The French part shouldn't dissuade those of you who hate subtitled flicks or artsy fartsy European fare--it's really a poignant, loving portrayal of a family yet once based in the reality of what one has to deal with when a loved one dies and you're left with their memories (in this case their valued objects and home).

If this story was done by Hollywood you'd have shrill voices screaming and fighting over the valuable art. As it was done by the French, it's done in a way that seems natural among two brothers and a sister over how to dispose of a family estate in a way that brings honor and dignity to the family name.

There are some great scenes that show up museums and the "coldness" of the way they do business and subsequently display other people's memories where all context and love of art is pretty much lost once removed from its original owner's homes.

The dialogue is first-rate and so natural. The story is also so modern and speaks of the globalization of our modern world and how a culture can be chipped away just by family members moving away. I won't ruin that aspect of the movie for anyone but you'll see how profound the effect is and yet in the end the grandchildren show all is not lost for France when its citizens move abroad.

The movie also looks fantastic. You actually feel as if you are in a wonderful jumbled French country home that actually feels like a home and the art pieces are alive (i.e., one famous vase gets used constantly for flowers rather than just being a display behind a glass case).

(Kudos also for the choice of the Plasticines' song near the end of the movie to showcase France's punk pop of today.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By K. Gordon TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
Interesting, gentle sad (but not depressing) story of the inevitability of loss and chance.

Three siblings decide whether to keep or sell their mother's country home and art collection
after her death, exploring how we give 'things' meaning, and how that meaning changes due
to context, generation, and what we need from them.

But while the ideas are intriguing, and the acting good it never quite reached the deepest
level of feeling or thoughtfulness for me.

Called a masterpiece by a number of critics, and something close by others, I cant quite go
there, but it is an intelligent, quietly moving experience, that I'll probably revisit yet again,
since it grew on me on a second viewing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Life gives us difficult realities to face Jan. 10 2011
By Steven Aldersley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
***Spoilers within***

This is a story about how three adult siblings deal with their mother's death. It leaves their lives forever changed. They were raised in France and their childhood home is left to them. They have to decide whether to keep it or sell it and also decide what to do with some of the valuable possessions left behind.

It's a snapshot into the three lives. The film is dialogue-heavy because it tries to show what's going through the minds of the three siblings.

It's also a commentary on the modern world. How everyone has a telephone and is always in touch with other things that are happening. Two of the siblings have made a life elsewhere; one in New York and the other in China.

How important is tradition, culture and their past to these people?

The film is shot beautifully and looks and sounds incredible. Whenever we are at the house, the air is filled with the sounds of birds.

Most people eventually face what the three face in this story. I remember having to deal with such things about 17 years ago. It's well told and interesting.

Like many Criterion titles, this isn't for everyone. If you like to think about life and people, it may interest you. If you need a more obvious story with a stunning conclusion, look elsewhere.

I fall into the first category.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  65 reviews
46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembrance of things past . . . May 17 2009
By Ronald Scheer - Published on Amazon.com
This elegiac French film concerns the passing of one generation to the next in a family of three siblings left with the complicated inheritance of a mother whose country house is filled with the memories and belongings of a great-uncle who was a well-known artist. Richly detailed, Proustian evocation of a moment in time where past and present meet - before time moves on.

This is a multi-layered film, interested in the interconnections between overlapping lives, while taking on many themes from the meaning that possessions assume in our lives to the responsibilities we owe to the past and to the memories and wishes of our forebears. It raises issues of lasting vs ephemeral values, esthetic vs practical, monetary vs sentimental, materialism vs intangibles like loyalty, respect, passion, tradition. It tantalizes with the expectation of family secrets that are never quite revealed. It luxuriates in the languor of French countryside at the height of summer.

While the dilemma - what to do with the the art collection of a dead artist - suggests a kind of high-culture perspective on the subject, the film keeps bringing us down to earth with its interest in the conflicts that might exist between any family members left to sort out the belongings of a dead parent, while needing to get on with their lives. The closing scenes are a brilliant coda to the way the dilemma is resolved - the central characters are left behind as we follow the next generation - teenagers invading the abandoned country house for a last weekend of partying, their attention focused completely on the present and the beckoning future.

This is a wise and thoughtful film especially for older adults. See it with someone who has lived a good deal of life, and the two of you will have much to reflect on and comment about.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This film is about all of Life April 25 2010
By J. Preston - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
I agree with most of what the other reviewers have said about this film. This is a wonderful film - full of insights about humanity, family, Life and Love.

However, I think this film has much more to offer than just insights about memories, or generations, or possessions . . . .

It is the second in a series of films produced by Musée d'Orsay, after The Flight of the Red Balloon. Flight Of The Red Balloon [DVD] WS, Juliette Binoche

This film is a "map" of modern human consciousness.

It starts with a French family gathering in the provences at their family home. The aging mother, now 75 years old, played by lovely and charming French actress Edith Scob, has gathered with her children for a birthday. Her children have come from their careers, all over the world, to be with her. During the course of the celebration, they begin exchanging memories, sentiments, the realities of fulfilling careers in a modern global economy, and, the importance of their love and sentiment for each other.

In the wake of the mother's demise, the family explores the values that they hold most dearly. As all of us must face, in our modern lives, they make compromises so that they may continue with their careers, their global pursuits, and their relationships outside of the family. The denouement arrives when they decide to sell their mother's considerable estate, and, donate many of her objets d'art to the Musée d'Orsay.

The film witnesses the resolution of their grief, fears, hopes and dreams, as they gradually let go of the art that their mother had collected, and, which had surrounded them when they were children.

Juliette Binoche (as a blonde) is no less than brilliant in this performance. In many ways, it involved another enactment of her extraordinary, and award-winning, performance in "Bleu", in the well-known and respected French trilogy - Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge, by Kiezlowski. Three Colors Trilogy (Blue / White / Red)

This film exlplores all of our feelings, spirit, and thoughts, as all of us now struggle for identity in a global conscioussness, fast becoming smaller, and smaller, and smaller . . . .
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Death Be Not Proud Aug. 13 2009
By Guy De Federicis - Published on Amazon.com
At 75 years old, Helene, (Edith Scob), has left express instructions to her three adult children on what to do with her vast collection of valuable art and country home when she dies. She is also wise to realize her wishes may not be met, foreseeing her children's indifference to her beloved collection, and their own global routine of daily living, which won't include the care and upkeep of a lovely and rustic French country home rich in familial history. She tells all this to her children during her 75th birthday get-together, as if leaving them to choose between the lady or the tiger.

For anyone forced to deal with a deceased parent's estate, director Olivier Assayas' examination of the cycle of life in one French family will strike a nerve of gentle guilt. While the matriarch is alive, the three adult children have no intention of disrupting the generational passing of precious heirlooms, but upon her death, the impracticality of maintaining a country home and possessing museum quality artwork transposes itself. With a degree of reluctance they free the past and embrace the future, not greedily, but with a strong sense of family pride.

This is a quiet film, more a slice of life than story. The inanimate artwork and home furnishings breathe as much life as the characters; an ancient sculpture in restoration during a tour of the museum where the children will donate much of the artwork exudes, nearly glows with the expression of all that had fondled or looked upon it. The cast has a breezy natural style revealing layers of conflicting emotions - guilt and reverence, sadness and happiness, security and doubt, especailly Charles Berling as the oldest son and Dominique Reymond as his wife, who later view the mother's possessions displayed in a museum. It's cold, he says or something to that effect of his mother's once practical furnishings - it has no life, no purpose.

In French with English subtitles.
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and in-depth, but extremely repetitive June 23 2009
By thornhillatthemovies.com - Published on Amazon.com
I tend to read "French" in the description of a film and then overlook everything else about the film. I should remember to do as much research into a French film as any other.

"Summer Hours", stars Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling and Jeremie Renier as siblings who bring their families to visit their mother/ grandmother at her country estate every summer. Mother takes her oldest son (Bierling) aside to give him her normal talk about her death and what he should do with all of the artworks and valuable objects in her house, annoying him enough to cause him to walk away. But she dies shortly after and the siblings have to deal with the estate and their past disagreements.

"Summer Hours" written and directed by Olivier Assayas ("Irma Vep") is, initially, an interesting film. An extremely meditative look at the relationship between the siblings and their mother, this depth provides the interest, holding our attention for a while.

But as the film progresses, it becomes episodic. And slow, repeating the themes over and over again.

The film opens with the entire clan invading grandmother's house in the country. The housekeeper seems a little overwhelmed, trying to keep the grandchildren from destroying the house, but she has been with the family for years, so she is used to the yearly invasion. Grandmother seems to welcome the activity, but becomes a little put out when she starts to open the gifts they have brought. Later, she corners her son and starts to give him a rundown of all of the valuable pieces in the house. He quickly becomes irritated; he has heard this before and doesn't like to hear her talk about death. There also seems to be friction between grandmother and her daughter (Binoche) who lives in America. The youngest son and his wife live in China, where the son runs a factory for Puma. Grandmother seems to be able to talk of little else other than her famous Uncle, a painter who will soon have a retrospective in San Francisco. Daughter tries to connect with her mother over this, but their appears to be too much bad blood, too much history.

This segment goes on for a while, and introduces us to each of the main characters in the story. When the various families leave, grandmother sits down and enjoys the peace and quiet. There is a slow fade to black and then we watch as the siblings gather for their mother's funeral. There are some interesting moments as we witness their grieving and how they start to deal with the loss of their mother. Then the conversation turns to the estate.

After some conversation, it seems like the estate becomes the only reason for the film to exist. This is what starts conversations between them. This is what drives the narrative; such as it is, forward. Maybe this is the point. Perhaps we are supposed to realize these siblings are not very close and only come together when they have to deal with family issues. This is made very clear, very quickly, yet we keep returning to it, we keep watching various scenes meant to illustrate this. It becomes repetitive.

Each time the image faded to black, I was ready for the film to end, but it quickly faded back and another chapter unfolded. This wouldn't be a bad method of storytelling, but the narrative doesn't really seem to move forward on a consistent basis.

And Binoche disappears for a lot of the film. The film really stars Charles Berling. He does a remarkably good job of playing the older brother, the patriarch of the family. You can see the weight of the world resting heavily on his shoulders and now that he is the only sibling living in France, he has to deal with their mother's affairs. His relationship with his wife and teenage daughter helps to break up the monotony of the rest of the story, giving us a glimpse into life in modern France.

But just as the relationship between the older son and his wife becomes interesting, a subplot about the Musee D'Orsay taking possession of some of their mother's pieces takes over the narrative. Really? This is interesting for a few moments, but when we sit in on a committee meeting while various French officials begin to debate whether the family deserves a tax credit against the inheritance tax, I began to tune out. Again.

"Summer Hours" has an interesting germ of an idea buried within the film. But a lot of extraneous detail and dialogue make it almost inaccessible to the audience.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a touching film Nov. 28 2010
By kaioatey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
A beautiful sad profound film shot with clarity, empathy and understanding of the complexity of civilized living. Quality of life means being embraced by family ghosts, stories and secrets and by objects given life through those stories. Objects that are murdered when placed into a museum.

The film acknowledges that modern life can disconnect yet makes it obvious that there is a common denominator, that of authenticity bestowed by one's inner life. Eloise touching the flowers in front of the emasculated house. Eloise watching her patronne wilt after the departure of grandkids. The Paris couple adjusting to life with grace and humor; the girl's sadness upon realizing that she has just lost a priceless part of her childhood. It seemed to me that the expat siblings were missing something essential - as if cutting links to their old home and country diminished them subtly, irreversibly. The film wasn't easy to watch, my grandfather had a similar grand old house & garden etc. And I now live far away.

Films like this make us sad, but also make us more real.
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