Monday, April 6, 2009

French Class

So, I saw this movie this morning at Talk Cinema by Olivier Assayas called The Summer Hours or en francais, L'Heure d'Ete, starring Juliette Binoche among others.  Apparently, IMDB says that the French Press calls her "La Binoche" affectionately. I've been a fan of hers since The Horseman on the Roof. I liked it. It wasn't great and probably won't win any awards but it was a nice film. Anyway, a family meeting for their mother's 75th birthday are the heirs of a former French painter who had a great impact on all their lives though the 3 kids (including Binoche) barely remember him. When their mother dies, they are tasked to decide what to do with the legacy their mother has maintained of her uncle's art collection. Much of the collection ends at the Musee D'Orsay (which is an amazing museum and if you haven't been in Paris, I just love--built in an old Train Station.) 

There are some weird family secrets and some problems that they have but the artistic aristrocracy is closing its doors for practical matters (at least partially for this family)... presumably Binoche's character still uses her artistic side to move in those circles. It is a touching look at the way practical objects affect the past and present for families and a nice honest look at the characters. The eldest brother who sort of is the "boring" one (and economist) who has remained behind in Paris while his sibs have moved on to China and America, is the one who really carries this movie though. His sentimental side balanced with his practical side make him the silent hero in the family even though the art of his great Uncle are what his mother held up as heroic. Also, with the end of the Artistic Aristocracy, there are some subtle (and not-so-subtle) tie-ins to Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. You'd see them if you know the play.

The cinematography was great though, and after the movie, Michael Phillips commented that it was done by Eric Gautier, who also was the director of photography on Into the Wild and it shows. Just a nice movie, a little serious so don't see if you're looking for a romp.

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