Friday, April 23, 2010

Family Ties

Summer Hours

Summer Hours (Criterion)
Olivier Assayas has directed a superior soap opera about a trio of French siblings who must decide whether to sell the family estate–famous paintings, antique furniture, and all–after their 75-year-old mother unexpectedly dies. Skillfully juggling his disparate characters (oldest brother, who’s most conservative; middle sister, a free spirit living in New York and engaged to an American; youngest brother, working with a shoe company in Shanghai, his wife and three kids in tow), Assayas gives us glimpses into their lives with a single line of dialogue or a brief shot of subtle body language or minute gestures. He even frames Summer Hours with sequences showing the next generation—these characters’ children and (at the end) their friends—and there’s something simultaneously touching and sad about their lack of knowledge about their own past (with one exception).

There’s seamless acting from Charles Berling, Juliette Binoche, and Jérémie Rénier as the siblings and Edith Scob as the benevolent family matriarch. On Blu-ray, Assayas’ subtle color palette is rendered with expert consistency—this is another in a long string of flawless Criterion high-def transfers. The usual plethora of superb Criterion extras includes Inventory, an hour-long documentary about the relationship of the Musee d’Orsay in Paris to the film’s making; on-set interviews with Assayas and his cast; and an Assayas interview.
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