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Summer Hours (The Criterion Collection)

3.9 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Widely hailed by critics as 2009s best film, SUMMER HOURS is the great contemporary French filmmaker Olivier Assayass most personal film to date. Three siblings, played by Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, and J'r'mie Renier, must decide what to do with the country estate and objects theyve inherited from their mother. From this simple story, Assayas creates a nuanced, exquisitely made drama about the material of globalized modern living. Naturalistic and unsentimental yet suffused with genuine warmth, this is that rare film that pays respect to family by treating it with honesty.


For a film about objects, Summer Hours presents a surprisingly affecting scenario. Then again, Olivier Assayas has never taken the easy road to catharsis. It's no spoiler to note that Hélène Berthier (Edith Scob) passes away shortly after her 75th birthday party, at which she tells her three children, Frédéric (Charles Berling), Adrienne (Juliette Binoche), and Jérémie (Jérémie Renier), that they're free to do whatever they want with her belongings The niece of a renowned painter, Hélène leaves behind a collection of art deco furnishings and precious objets d'art, including Musée d'Orsay-loaned pieces by Degas and Redon. Were he a different kind of director, the superficial would lock horns with the righteous, but these characters aren't quite so simplistic. Frédéric, who resides in France with his wife and teenage daughter, wishes to leave everything as it is, but Adrienne lives in New York with her boyfriend (played by Clint Eastwood's son, Kyle) and Jérémie lives in China with his wife and young children, so they hatch a plan that meets everyone's unique needs. Largely devoid of music, once an Assayas signature, the movie ends with a raucous house party that recalls his 1994 feature Cold Water, and Berling (Les Destinées, Demonlover) continues to do some of his finest work for the filmmaker, anchoring this deceptively rich picture with his subtle performance. Summer Hours marks a return to form for Assayas (after the stylishly inert Boarding Gate) and offers a rewarding new twist on the family melodrama. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features

New, restored high-definition digital transfer
New video interview with Assayas
A short documentary featuring interviews with Assayas and cast/crew on the set
Inventory an hour-long documentary by Olivier Gonard
Theatrical trailer
New and improved English subtitle translation
A booklet featuring an essay by critic Kent Jones

Product Details

  • Actors: Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jérémie Renier, Edith Scob, Dominique Reymond
  • Directors: Olivier Assayas
  • Writers: Olivier Assayas
  • Producers: Charles Gillibert, Claire Dornoy, Marin Karmitz, Nathanaël Karmitz
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: April 20, 2010
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0035ECHPO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,295 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Summer Hours (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ronald Scheer on May 17, 2009
Format: DVD
This elegiac French film concerns the passing of one generation to the next in a family of three siblings left with the complicated inheritance of a mother whose country house is filled with the memories and belongings of a great-uncle who was a well-known artist. Richly detailed, Proustian evocation of a moment in time where past and present meet - before time moves on.

This is a multi-layered film, interested in the interconnections between overlapping lives, while taking on many themes from the meaning that possessions assume in our lives to the responsibilities we owe to the past and to the memories and wishes of our forebears. It raises issues of lasting vs ephemeral values, esthetic vs practical, monetary vs sentimental, materialism vs intangibles like loyalty, respect, passion, tradition. It tantalizes with the expectation of family secrets that are never quite revealed. It luxuriates in the languor of French countryside at the height of summer.

While the dilemma - what to do with the the art collection of a dead artist - suggests a kind of high-culture perspective on the subject, the film keeps bringing us down to earth with its interest in the conflicts that might exist between any family members left to sort out the belongings of a dead parent, while needing to get on with their lives. The closing scenes are a brilliant coda to the way the dilemma is resolved - the central characters are left behind as we follow the next generation - teenagers invading the abandoned country house for a last weekend of partying, their attention focused completely on the present and the beckoning future.

This is a wise and thoughtful film especially for older adults. See it with someone who has lived a good deal of life, and the two of you will have much to reflect on and comment about.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
I agree with most of what the other reviewers have said about this film. This is a wonderful film - full of insights about humanity, family, Life and Love.

However, I think this film has much more to offer than just insights about memories, or generations, or possessions . . . .

It is the second in a series of films produced by Musée d'Orsay, after The Flight of the Red Balloon. Flight Of The Red Balloon [DVD] WS, Juliette Binoche

This film is a "map" of modern human consciousness.

It starts with a French family gathering in the provences at their family home. The aging mother, now 75 years old, played by lovely and charming French actress Edith Scob, has gathered with her children for a birthday. Her children have come from their careers, all over the world, to be with her. During the course of the celebration, they begin exchanging memories, sentiments, the realities of fulfilling careers in a modern global economy, and, the importance of their love and sentiment for each other.

In the wake of the mother's demise, the family explores the values that they hold most dearly. As all of us must face, in our modern lives, they make compromises so that they may continue with their careers, their global pursuits, and their relationships outside of the family. The denouement arrives when they decide to sell their mother's considerable estate, and, donate many of her objets d'art to the Musée d'Orsay.

The film witnesses the resolution of their grief, fears, hopes and dreams, as they gradually let go of the art that their mother had collected, and, which had surrounded them when they were children.
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At 75 years old, Helene, (Edith Scob), has left express instructions to her three adult children on what to do with her vast collection of valuable art and country home when she dies. She is also wise to realize her wishes may not be met, foreseeing her children's indifference to her beloved collection, and their own global routine of daily living, which won't include the care and upkeep of a lovely and rustic French country home rich in familial history. She tells all this to her children during her 75th birthday get-together, as if leaving them to choose between the lady or the tiger.

For anyone forced to deal with a deceased parent's estate, director Olivier Assayas' examination of the cycle of life in one French family will strike a nerve of gentle guilt. While the matriarch is alive, the three adult children have no intention of disrupting the generational passing of precious heirlooms, but upon her death, the impracticality of maintaining a country home and possessing museum quality artwork transposes itself. With a degree of reluctance they free the past and embrace the future, not greedily, but with a strong sense of family pride.

This is a quiet film, more a slice of life than story. The inanimate artwork and home furnishings breathe as much life as the characters; an ancient sculpture in restoration during a tour of the museum where the children will donate much of the artwork exudes, nearly glows with the expression of all that had fondled or looked upon it. The cast has a breezy natural style revealing layers of conflicting emotions - guilt and reverence, sadness and happiness, security and doubt, especailly Charles Berling as the oldest son and Dominique Reymond as his wife, who later view the mother's possessions displayed in a museum. It's cold, he says or something to that effect of his mother's once practical furnishings - it has no life, no purpose.

In French with English subtitles.
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