Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A year-end prize for Summer Hours

Olivier Assayas' sharply observed and subtly affecting Summer Hours has been voted the best movie of 2009 in indieWIRE's annual poll of more than 100 film critics and bloggers. And while it wasn't my very first choice for top honors, I'd agree with my fellow voters that the film -- Assayas' best since Late August, Early September, a movie that, for various reasons, I've been thinking about a lot recently -- it's an altogether worthy choice. (As for indieWIRE's choice for best film of the decade... well, let me be diplomatic and say I didn't take part in that balloting, so I have no comment to make.) Summer Hours is a ruefully melancholy tale about three adult siblings (Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling and Jeremie Renier) dealing with their late mother's estate -- and, by extension, with their increasingly tenuous ties to their shared past, and to each other. As Roger Ebert has sagely noted: "[T]he film builds its emotional power by stealth, indirectly, refusing to be a tearjerker, always realistic, and yet observing how very sad it is to see a large part of your life disappear... The actors all find the correct notes. It is a French film, and so they are allowed to be adult and intelligent. They are not the creatures of a screenplay that hurries them along. The film is not about what will happen. It is about them."

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