Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours: Not At All Kinky
Fans of auteur Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep, Demonlover, Clean) who plan to catch his latest, Summer Hours, which screens tomorrow and Thursday at the Ziegfeld Theater as part of the New York Film Festival, should be apprised that there's absolutely nothing kinky about this new one. Instead, Summer Hours marks Assayas's return to the bourgeois domestic concerns of earlier ensemble films like Late August, Early September.
Summer Hours is story of an estate that must be divided up by three sibilings (Charles Berling, Juliette Binoche, and Jeremie Renier) after their mother dies. Understated and gently paced, the movie is largely carried by Berling, who plays the dutiful eldest son, Frederic. He's also an economist who has written a book deriding the voodoo science of his profession and is thus the would-be agent of his own professional obsolescence. This—and the fact that Frederic's brother and sister have both chosen to live abroad—ties the film thematically to Assayas's recent trilogy about the corrosive effects of globalization. Stately and beautiful, Summer Hours is a better, more coherent film than that trilogy's concluder, Boarding Gate (which played in New York this past spring). But for all Boarding Gate's flaws, give me the sight of Asia Argento tieing up Michael Madsen, and vice versa, over the Summer Hours spectacle of a clan selling off their tasteful wares any day.—Benjamin Strong