Review: Summer Hours DVD

STUDIO: Criterion Collection | DIRECTOR: Olivier Assayas | STARS: Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jeremy Renier, Edith Scob, Alice de Lencquesaing RELEASE DATE: 4/20/10 | PRICE: DVD $39.95, Blu-ray $39.95
BONUSES: interview with filmmaker, featurette, documentary “Inventory”
SPECS: NR | 103 min. | Drama | 1.85:1 widescreen| stereo | French with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Filmmaker Olivier Assayas has genre-jumped in his career, moving from subdued character studies to kinky thrillers and back again. In Summer Hours, he makes internal leaps, as the picture changes a few scenes in from a touching family drama to a study of objects d’art and how they are sold after their owner’s death.

The works in question are owned by a matriarch (Edith Scob), who dies shortly after a pleasant Sunday afternoon birthday gathering at her house. Upon her death, the film focuses on the minutiae of her three adult children (Charles Berling, Juliette Binoche, Jeremy Renier) selling her possessions. Berling plays the film’s central role, as the sibling who is closest to his mother; although Binoche receives star billing and sports a new blonde look, hers is essentially a supporting performance. The film is redeemed and transformed, however, by its moving finale, in which Berling’s teen daughter (Alice de Lencquesaing) explores a memory of her grandmother.

A film constructed in such a dense fashion can certainly use footnotes and parentheses, and the DVD supplements included in this package serve that function perfectly.

An interview with Assayas supplies his twin motivations for the film: the death of his mother, and a proposal by the Musee d’Orsay in Paris to make a film about the art in their museum.

An hour-long video documentary examines the art used in the film, most of which is on exhibit in (no surprise) the Musee d’Orsay. The film’s emphasis on the artwork is interesting, but its beautifully understated conclusion makes it worth repeat viewings.


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About Ed

Ed Grant has written about film for a wide range of periodicals, books and websites. He edited the reference book The Motion Picture Guide Annual and, since 1993, has produced and hosted the weekly cable program Media Funhouse, which Time magazine called “the most eclectic and useful movie show on TV.”