France, 2008, 102 minutes
Sat, May 2 / 8:50 / PFA / SUMM02P
Mon, May 4 / 9:00 / Kabuki / SUMM04K
Wed, May 6 / 4:15 / Kabuki / SUMM06K
Olivier Assayas’s richly meditative new film opens with a burst of activity in bright summer sunlight as the pinging energy of a French family gathering fills the spacious country estate of Hélène (Edith Scob) on the occasion of her 75th birthday. Her adult children, Adrienne (Juliette Binoche) and Jérémie (Jérémie Renier) have come in from New York and Beijing, respectively, joining sibling Frédéric (Charles Berling) and his family, in from Paris. Hélène’s preoccupations have turned increasingly to the disposition of the house and its contents—inherited from a close uncle and noted artist—once she passes away. Recognizing that her family has literally moved on and that her caretaking of her uncle’s legacy is likely a last chapter, she takes Frédéric aside to discuss the eventual sale of the house and the donation of its artwork to a museum. A heavy soul who has remained physically close to his mother and the house, Frédéric has invested the estate with his own deeply emotional nostalgia, and it’s he more than Hélène who struggles with the idea that it won’t remain in the family. Working from a commission by the Musée d’Orsay, Assayas and cinematographer Eric Gautier masterfully use space, light and motion to explore the meaning, passions and memories we invest in objects and our surroundings—and how such relationships change over time and across generations. Compelling performances by an exceptional cast bring home the film’s intelligent balance of realism and poetry.