English Title: Summer Hours
Original Title: L’heure d’été
Language: French, English
Genre: Drama, Family
Director/Writer: Olivier Assayas
Cinematography: Eric Gautier
Alice de Lencquesaing
My only previous Assayas’ approach is Maggie Cheung’s Cannes BEST ACTRESS nabbing feature CLEAN (2004), and for most Chinese media, Assayas seems to alway been in an ill-fated personage as Maggie’s ex-husband. But his works matures splendidly with finesse and sobriety (from CLEAN to SUMMER HOURS), the latter resounds a similar pace of meditation and quietude as Hirokazu Koreeda’s STILL WALKING (2008), tackles with a slice of family life, with a contemplation towards the domestic heredity, globalized opportunism, alienated generations and art conservation.
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.