The scene where they are taking the pieces of art from the house is just beautifully crafted. It's so beautiful the simple fact that while the experts are taking the paintings from the wall, Frédéric is turning on the fireplace, making tea, trying to keep the house alive even though Hélène is long gone, just as it will happen with her things soon enough...
The most rewarding level of this film is the most literal, I think. Though if you want it can be about, like, the loss of national identity in a global age and the sadness of conservative values being lost or, quite literally, being put in museums. Though the only way, in my opinion, to sucessfully romantizice the past is to mourn its passing it's still not the best way to view the film.
Maybe not one of the great works of 21st century art but is surely one of the great works about 20th century art. Specifically its utility + possession. Does it belong to the masses or is it intensely personal? That this is foregrounded as capital while the siblings change countries makes it distinctly Assayas, his camera roving like one of those filmed gallery spaces. Looks like a painting, feels like a novel.
It's rare to come across a film that refuses to exploit its characters for the sake of a juicier plot. The film is a very restrained and subtle study of what happens to a family when the last of the parents are gone and decisions must be made about the things that they left behind.
"This is an end-of-an-era movie, the story of how a family learns to let go of the physical possessions that have helped define their familial identity. It’s also about the way the things around us, divorced from the life of their surroundings [or the secrets behind them], can end up meaning nothing. The only way to hang onto the past is to let it go." - Andrew O'Hehir, Salon. 3.5 stars
Beautifully shot, well cast film about a French family wondering what to do with all their museum quality furniture when the matriarch dies. **SPOILER ALERT** (they end up giving it mostly to a museum due to tax liability issues) (no, seriously, really heartbreaking scene talking with the family's estate tax lawyer about the pros and cons of allocating their ginormous estate) **End Spoiler**
As I wrote when I reviewed this film at TIFF08, Summer Hours is "an evocative portrait of the turning of generations and the manner in which beautiful belongings return to the world." The "sermon of the inanimate" has rarely been rendered so subtly. I was so happy to see it included in the SFIFF52 lineup.