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Wed July 1, 2009
A summer vacation
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time," "Cinema Classics," and "On the Marquee"
Accustomed as we are to dysfunctional families, Rachel Getting Married and A Christmas Tale come to mind, Summer Hours is unusually like a summer vacation where family members respect each other and life takes its normal hostages but with little rancor. After mother's death, the adult children, Adrienne (Juliette Binoche), Frederic (Charles Berling), and Jeremie (Jeremie Renier) must decide what to do with the beautiful French cottage and the valuable art pieces from their great uncle.
Given that two of them want the place sold, as they don't reside in France anymore, but Frederic is a university professor with roots in France, there is surprisingly little disagreement that things must be sold. Writer/director Olivier Assayas gently creates interesting characters out of our brief visits with them, right down to the frisky teen age daughter who tangles with police and holds a raucous party to help contrast the carelessness of youth with the conservation of the adults.
No better symbol of this dichotomy is the broken Degas pottery, which the children broke long ago in their youth but mother saved in a bag. Assayas carefully contrasts the gravitas of the art objects and mother's vulnerable 75 years with the irreverence of children and grand children. It always seems that way anyway, for everyone, be they in the US or France: Holding on to objects and life is a zero sum business.
It may be best like this family to carry on busy professional lives or grow up and let the objects take care of themselves. Eloise the maid says after being offered something valuable as a memento, "He said to choose anything. I couldn't take advantage. I took something ordinary. What would I do with something valuable?"
Summer Hours leaves you with a hope to see more of the valuable Juliette Binoche and languid summer days that hardly see the hours before they are gone.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, Cinema Classics, and On the Marquee, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com