Now Showing at: Cincinnati World Cinema Sunday, November 15 at 6:30 pm, and Tuesday, November 17 at 7:30
Review by: Larry Thomas
I’ve gone on record more than once about how much I love foreign films. To that end, I generally REALLY love French films. They generally pay more attention to story and characterization, and have an air of civility about them. Such is the case with Summer Hours, directed by Olivier Assayas, who helmed the really nifty Irma Vep about twelve years ago. That film starred Maggie Cheung as herself working for a director who was remaking a silent French serial called Les Vampyres.
The newest film from Assayas is Summer Hours, and it’s a complete one-eighty from that moviemaking tale. Summer Hours begins with three siblings, and their families, attending the 75th birthday celebration of their mother. By the time the afternoon is over, we are well acquainted with the characters and their situations. Needless to say, the mother dies, and they must once again assemble to evaluate what needs to be with the estate and possessions. Their late great uncle was a famous French artist, and there are many valuable items in the collection. The mother has dedicated her life to the preservation of the uncle’s work and legend. Unfortunately, she left no will, which puts all the pressure on the daughter and two sons.
Summer Hours is a film that might be referred to as “leisurely paced.” That doesn’t mean it’s boring, or has nothing to say. On the contrary, once you’ve made the journey through the film with these characters, you’ll feel as if you not only know them, but perhaps they may resemble some of your own family.
The most famous name in the cast is Juliette Binoche as Adrienne, the daughter. She lives and works in New York for a retailer designing tableware and such. Her brother Jeremie, played by Jeremie Ranier, manufactures tennis shoes in Shanghai. The only sibiling nearby is Frederic, an economist who has a recently published book. As played by Charles Berling, Frederic has the widest range of emotions to express, since the bulk of the work in settling matters falls to him. Edith Scob brilliantly acts the matriarch of the clan. You may not recognize her name, but may have seen her in the classic 1959 French horror film Eyes Without a Face by director George Franju. She’s just as good on the screen now as then. Also part of the extended family is aging housekeeper and cook Eloise. Isabelle Sadoyan plays her as sort of a second grandmother, the kind of person you would enjoy having around the house. And in a couple of brief scenes, Binoche’s American boyfriend is played by Kyle Eastwood, Clint’s son, who is not only a good actor but also an accomplished jazz musician and composer.
There’s sadness and smiles, tears and triumphs, and the whole story has an air of wistfulness about it. Times change, people die; life takes you in different directions. We’ve all experienced it. Summer Hours lets you experience it again with people who are strangers to you in the first scene, but feel like old friends by the last. It’s a must-see film and one of the best I’ve seen this year.
The unrated Summer Hours is a presentation of Cincinnati World Cinema at Covington’s Carnegie Arts Center with two showings: Sunday, November 15 at 6:30 pm, and Tuesday, November 17 at 7:30. There will be a cash bar social hour prior to the start time, and a post-film discussion to follow.