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NYFF: Summer Hours

NYFF: Summer Hours

Olivier Assayas has said that his intention with Summer Hours was to return home and make a “French film” in the wake of his globetrotting trilogy of demonlover, Clean, and Boarding Gate. Given the terrain he’s been plumbing for the better part of this decade, the first sequence of Summer Hours seems almost the work of another filmmaker—it’s a gently lovely prologue in which three siblings, Frédéric (Charles Berling), Adrienne (Juliette Binoche), and Jérémie (Jérémie Renier) gather with their spouses and children at the rambling country home of their long-dead great uncle Paul, a painter of some renown, that’s now occupied by their mother, Hélène (Edith Scob). The far-flung family—Adrienne’s a designer in New York, Jérémie works in China for an international sneaker company, while Frédéric teaches economics in Paris—has gathered for Hélène’s 75th birthday, and Assayas’s fleet camera captures the festivities in elliptical glimpses, from children returning breathless back to the house after playing games on the sprawling grounds, to the family housekeeper preparing a roast in the kitchen, to Hélène opening her present, an up-to-the-minute portable phone which she’s completely terrified of using. Assayas has always been good in a crowd—he doesn’t seek to dampen the bustle of everyday life and contain it with his camera, rather, like Hou Hsiao-hsien he reacts to the rhythms of a gathering with deft sensitivity. This setup is all very universal in its generalities, but the particulars couldn’t be more (stereo)typically “French”—mission accomplished, Olivier.

Click here to read the rest of Jeff Reichert’s review of Summer Hours.

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