Summer Hours

This French film, released for about 2 minutes in New York, appeared on the Top 10 lists of all three NY TImes movie critics.  It is, nevertheless, a good film.  The opening scene shows us a French matriarch, entertaining her three grown children and their families at her annual birthday party.  The old lady has devoted most of her life to protecting the reputation of her uncle, a (fictional) early 20th C artist, and she lives in an elegant country home filled with beautiful art.  Six months later, the old lady is dead, and her children have to divide up the estate.  Death taxes are high in France, two of the children live abroad and need money, and the third doesn’t have enough money to buy out his siblings.  If this were an American film, the story would decompensate at this point into sibling warfare, but here, the children reach a relatively amicable, if ultimately unsatisfying, resolution.  The movie becomes a meditation on the meaning of art, and the importance of places and objects in preserving memories. Some of the most emotionally affecting scenese are almost wordless.  With Juliette Binoche.

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