Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Summer Days Part One: Summer Hours

Summer Hours
Directed by Olivier Assayas
Released May 15, 2009

There’s something indescribable about the feeling of a summer house. It’s a place to dislodge and unplug from the normalcy of daily life and the busy, stressful nature of work. For children of a young age, it can be a wonderful paradise that signifies vacation, relaxation, and perfection. But for the adults, it’s not always such a break from work. If lengthy travel is involved and the duration of the stay has to be cut short in order to return to normal life, some of the magic is lost. And when work is the only topic of conversation during the supposed vacation, there’s definitely something missing. That’s the underlying theme in the contemplative French Film “Summer Hours.”

There are slow, pensive conversations and moments like in the best of artful cinema, designed to convey some deeper truth or meaning about the events transpiring. It’s not very effective, however, since it’s all terribly realistic, and the conversation is just that – conversation. This is an intimate portrait of a family unit, though it’s hardly as interesting as it seems to think it is. Three grown siblings must decide what to do with their mother’s home, which is their beloved summer house, once she can no longer take care of it. The fact of the matter is that only one son actually lives in France, while the other two have permanent jobs abroad, and therefore the expensive upkeep for infrequent use hardly seems a viable solution. There’s not much unexpected in “Summer Hours,” since all the cards are pretty much on the table from the start.

“Summer Hours” is understandably a very French film. Unfortunately, it’s nothing nearly as compelling as any one of the films in the exciting trio of great French films from last year: “Tell No One,” “A Christmas Tale,” and “I’ve Loved You So Long.” This one is most like the more conventional latter, though not as moving or powerful. There are moments of depth and importance, but for the most part, everything is erred out on the surface. There isn’t much to be gleaned from further meditation on the subject, and that’s what “Summer Hours” is all about.

B-

2 comments:

G1000 said...

I think you might have missed the major point this film was trying to make. It is about a family, but it's more about one man's loss of his childhood. And it's also about how each younger generation appreciates so little about the older generation. So, it's sad. But the final image is one of hope. The two teenages running through the yard is a sign that life goes on.

I, personally, loved this film. I thought the acting was amazing and the characters compelling. There wasn't much of a story, but that's fine. It's not a great film (and nowhere near the level of something like "The Hurt Locker"), but I did enjoy it. Sorry you didn't get too much out of it.

Abe Fried-Tanzer said...

I know this was one I was supposed to like, and I really tried. It just really didn't do very much for me, but I'm glad you enjoyed it.