Friday, February 22, 2013

Summer Hours

Written and directed by Olivier Assayas, L’Heure d’ete (Summer Hours) is the story of a group of adult siblings pondering what to do with their childhood home following the death of their mother. The film is an exploration into family and nostalgia as well as taking the next step in the aftermath of death. Starring Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jeremie Renier, and Edith Scob. L’Heure d’ete is a ravishing yet captivating film from Olivier Assayas.

The film is about the life of a family that involves this woman who has been taking care of the artwork of her uncle as she tells her eldest son about what to do with her estate and the artwork once she passes away. When she does pass, three siblings have to figure out what to do with their mother’s home as well as all of the artwork she’s been taking care of. Yet, two of the younger siblings have news that would force their eldest brother to make drastic decisions about what to do with the home as it would involve a lot of uneasy decisions. Some of which would see that some of the artwork and objects would be available for the world to see but would also leave some sad reminders of the world they once lived in.

Olivier Assayas’ screenplay does have play to a traditional structure where the first act is about the family’s time with their mother Helene (Edith Scob) as they visit her in this beautiful summer home with their children who definitely love the place. Yet, Helene knows she will pass on soon as she leaves a lot of the responsibility to her eldest son Frederic (Charles Berling) who is definitely more attached to the home as he is also the one sibling who still lives in France. While his younger siblings in Adrienne (Juliette Binoche) and Jeremie (Jeremie Renier) also have feelings for the house. They have no use for it as both of them live outside of France as they also have jobs that will prevent them from being involved fully with what to do with some of the objects in their mother’s home.

Helene definitely anticipated this as Frederic would make decisions about what to do with his great-uncle’s artwork as some of it would be uneasy as he also wants to do something for his mother’s longtime caretaker Eloise (Isabelle Sadoyan). It’s not just that the siblings are having issues with what to do with all of these objects as some of them have very sentimental value that they want to keep. Yet, they do need the money as both Adrienne and Jeremie have jobs that will require them to live a certain way as neither of them stay in France very much while Jeremie also has children to take care of. For Frederic, losing this home hits him the hardest as he hopes to pass it on to his teenage children who adore the place.

Assayas’ direction is very entrancing for the way he presents the life of a family dealing with death and the end of something. While a lot of the direction doesn’t go for any kind of style. It is still entrancing for the intimacy that is portrayed in family life as Assayas moves the camera around a bit with wide shots or in medium shots. Yet, Assayas does find ways to create something that does look like a painting in some of the framing while a lot of the scenes at Helene’s summer home are exquisite and naturalistic in comparison to the scenes set in Paris. The direction in the scenes in Paris are much more controlled but also have that air of intimacy. Even as features moments that are quite melancholic as it would also involve moments with Eloise who is really a part of the house. The film does feature a somber ending as it relates to the home as well as the freedom that it has for those who are there. Overall, Assayas creates a touching yet heartfelt drama about a family dealing with loss.

Cinematographer Eric Gautier does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography from the very naturalistic yet gorgeous look of the film‘s summertime exteriors in the estate to the more intimate yet lush settings of some of the film‘s interior scenes. Editor Luc Barnier does excellent work with the editing by using some rhythmic jump-cuts for some scenes as well as fade-outs to help flesh out the film‘s structure. Art director Fanny Stauff and set decorator Sandrine Mauvezin do amazing work with the look of Helene‘s home as well as the more modern look in Frederic‘s home. Sound editors Nicolas Cantin and Olivier Goinard do fantastic work with the sound to capture the intimate atmosphere in the scenes at Helene’s home in contrast to the loudness of city life.

The casting by Antoinette Boulat is superb for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small performances from Kyle Eastwood as Adrienne’s American boyfriend James, Emile Berling and Alice de Lencquesaing as Frederic’s teenage kids in Pierre and Sylvie, Valerie Bonneton as Jeremie’s wife, Dominique Reymond as Frederic’s wife, and Isabelle Sadoyan as Helene’s longtime caretaker Eloise who Frederic sees as part of the family. Edith Scob is wonderful as Helene as this old woman who seems to have lived a full life while knowing what will happen to her as she tries to ensure Frederic about what to do.

Jeremie Renier is excellent as the youngest sibling Jeremie as he tries to instill his ideas about what to do with the house while admitting that he needed the money as he’s set to move to China to work. Juliette Binoche is great as Adrienne as the middle child who is always moving around as she tries to help Frederic with handling the estate as well as deal with her own changes in life. Finally, there’s Charles Berling in a terrific performance as Frederic as he deals with his mother’s estate while becoming melancholic over what he might be losing as it starts to affect him greatly while he also ponders about what will happen to some of these personal objects that his mother has been holding for years.

L’Heure d’ete is a remarkable film from Olivier Assayas. Featuring superb performances from Charles Berling, Juliette Binoche, Jeremie Renier, and Edith Scob. The film is a truly heartfelt yet mesmerizing drama about loss and the shadows that are left by the previous generation. It’s also a film about family as well as the bonds that siblings try to make as well as preserve something that their children can cherish for years to come. In the end, L’Heure de’ete is an extraordinarily rich film from Olivier Assayas.

Olivier Assayas Film: (Disorder) - (Winter’s Child) - (Paris Awakens) - (A New Life) - (Cold Water) - (Irma Vep) - (Late August, Early September) - (Sentimental Destinies) - (Demonlover) - Clean - (Boarding Gate) - Carlos - (Something in the Air) - Clouds of Sils Maria - Personal Shopper

© thevoid99 2013


Unknown said...

I really enjoy Assayas' work. Even if I don't think he's made any real masterpieces yet, I always love the way he directs ensembles, his complex narratives, and especially the 'international' feel of his films.

thevoid99 said...

From what I've seen so far, I really like Assayas films. Actually, I think Carlos is his masterpiece. It's definitely one of the best rise-and-fall tales that I've seen.