This delicious film from my Netflix queue deserves a whole post of it's very own. Summer Hours, (L'heure d'été), 2008, written and directed by contemporary French filmmaker, Olivier Assayas, opens in a gloriously crumbling old country house an hour north of Paris. (Remember how I adore patina?) The 75 year old Hélène (Edith Scob) has gathered her three children (Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling and Jeremie Renier) and their families for her birthday, and discusses with them the fate of her extraordinary art collection, comprised by a dozen circa 1900 masterworks, including furniture by Louis Majorelle and Josef Hoffmann, glass and ceramic vases by Félix Bracquemond and Atelier d'Auteuil, and paintings by Camille Corot and Odilon Redon. The art was inherited from her famous uncle (and possibly incestuous lover), Paul Berthier, a fictional post-Impressionist painter. It's thrilling that many of these gorgeous pieces are actually on loan from the Musée d'Orsay and star, right along with the actors, in the film.
This might seem like an ordinary family melodrama, but Assayas takes the story to a highly poetical level. It's rich in meaning, but not sentimental, dealing with the relationships between people and art and the past. It conjures images of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard; the leaving behind of a lovely era and gently moving into a new order. I liked this one so much, I wanted to pop it back in the machine and watch it again. It's gentle, but ravishing. A perfect summer film.