Summer Hours (Palace Films Collection) (2008)

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Released 18-Aug-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Interviews-Cast-At the Movies Interview : Juliette Binoche
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 98:00 (Case: 103)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Olivier Assayas
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Juliette Binoche
Charles Berling
Jérémie Renier
Edith Scob
Dominique Reymond
Valérie Bonneton
Isabelle Sadoyan
Kyle Eastwood
Alice de Lencquesaing
Emile Berling
Jean-Baptiste Malartre
Gilles Arbona
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   The latest film by French director Olivier Assayas is about nothing more life-changing or dramatic than the disposition of a mother's estate after her death. The temperature of the dialogue rarely rises above the lukewarm and yet this is one of the most profound and riveting films of the last few years. Playing to a festival circuit, the film saw only limited success. Perhaps the inclusion of the title in the list of Best Films by New York Times critics Manohla Dargis and Stephen Holden, and the glowing review from the other Times critic A.O. Scott will bring to it a larger audience.

Summer Hours (L'Heure de Ete) was the second film commissioned by the Musee d'Orsay, that great repository of French art, one of many things it has in common with the first commission The Flight of the Red Balloon. No wonder then that the film includes a scene in the museum and no wonder that its many themes include the idea of the value of items, both as personal objects and as art pieces.

When we first meet the Mayal clan they are at a country estate celebrating the 75th birthday of the matriarch, Helene. That isn't a regular occurrence. Of the three children only Frederic (Charles Berling) still lives in France. Daughter Adrienne (Juliette Binoche) is a fashion designer living in New York. Youngest son Jeremie (Jeremie Renier) has ended up in China working for Puma. Their mother is a proud and defiant old lady with a strong streak of realism. She is a little bemused by the gift of a portable phone from Frederic. What does she need any more things for? She has the house and its memories, mainly memories of her uncle, a distinguished artist.

The house is stuffed with artworks dear to Frederic but incomprehensible to his two teenage children. They belong to a different age. Frederic is perhaps the only one who can't see this clearly. When his mother takes him aside to give him a run down on the assets in the estate to prepare for her passing he is aghast that she could contemplate death and, perhaps worse, contemplate a time when the estate and its treasures would be sold or put in museums.

When the inevitable happens and Frederic blithely tells his siblings that "the one thing we can all agree on is that the house must be retained for future generations" he is hopelessly out of touch. Jeremie and Adrienne have made lives out of France and are never likely to return except for rare visits. Thus Summer Hours becomes a nostalgic, bittersweet dissection of the process of cutting ties with the past. But that is one of many themes in this complex, rich film. The script by Assayas has a superbly adult ring to it. Characters act and speak like adult humans (a rare commodity) and his cinematographer gets deep into the family gatherings as if we were the silent brother observing the family laugh, cry and argue. The acting is superb. Scob makes a prickly but knowing Helene. This actress brings 50 years of experience to her part (she came to prominence early as the daughter in the Georges Franjou film Eyes Without a Face). A blonde wigged Binoche has an unsuccessful marriage in her past. Will her new flame played by Kyle Eastwood (yes, son of) be any luckier? Renier is an experienced French actor. The closest English speaking audiences may have come to him is in his role in Brotherhood of the Wolf, or perhaps the odd scene in Atonement where he played the brain damaged soldier tended to in hospital by the middle aged Briony Tallis. He is superb as the brother who respects the past but is dedicated to moving on. Berling is a regular in the films of Assayas. He is a meditative, instinctive actor and his role captures a man who refuses to let go of his nostalgia.

The film is an ensemble piece and all the actors, including the young actors, carry their roles. The performances are ones to savour as each nuanced point is allowed time to breathe. It is very moving at times as each of the characters, even the old estate housekeeper, come to terms with the past and struggle to understand the present and the imagined future. Gorgeous!

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Transfer Quality

Video

   IMDB lists this film as having been shot on 35mm film and projected at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

The DVD transfer is in that approximate ratio. Elsewhere, as mentioned below, I have seen the film described as having a 2.35:1 transfer but this seems unlikely. It is 16x9 enhanced.

The film is a good looking low budget French movie. The transfer is fairly sharp and flesh tones accurate. The colours, particularly the green of the estate, are stable and accurate. There is an acceptable level of film grain.

Compression is no issue. There are no artefacts to speak of.

The subtitles in English are burnt into the print. In a few moments with Kyle Eastwood where Binoche and he are speaking English the subtitles disappear.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sound for Summer Hours is French Dolby Digital 5.1 running at 448Kb/s. There is also a 2.0 track running at 224 Kb/s.

Whilst the higher bit rate track had a slightly higher level of immersion and depth I was hard pressed to notice any substantive differences between the two. The film is really small ensemble dialogue and the surrounds are not given a great deal of work. I can't recall the sub-woofer ever making an appearance.

That is not to criticize the soundtrack which seems perfectly recorded and without technical defects. The dialogue can all be heard clearly. It is in audio sync.

The classical music score is used sparingly throughout.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

This Region 4 DVD has only one real extra.

At the Movies Interview with Juliette Binoche (5.11)

This short interview is about directors. Binoche describes choosing her roles based on the spirit of the film, which she says is the helmer. She briefly describes working with Godard on Hail Mary but otherwise the interview casts no light on Summer Hours.

Theatrical Trailer(1.46)

The great challenges facing trailer makers, finding a narrative in a free-wheeling film, is never more apparent than in this short attempt which contains some of the "action" but little of the essence of the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

  This DVD has not been released in Region 1. The Region 2 DVD of Summer Hours has additional extras. According to a usually reliable source the DVD is in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio however screenshots used to illustrate the film are in the same ratio as the Region 4. However, there are additional extras to be had on the Region 2. These are :

Region 2 then gets the nod if barely.

Summary

    Summer Hours is not for all markets. Either you will be drawn into these lives and eagerly await each minor turn of events or the film will leave you cold. For those who take the journey there is a richness and profundity that comes from a master filmmaker at work.

The quality of the transfer is excellent although some more extras would have been nice.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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