Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Up until a few years ago I thought Wes Anderson was the only recent filmmaker that could get me to care about rich people and their issues, but Olivier Assayas changed all of that with 2008's light family drama; 'Summer Hours' (a nice little break and change of pace between 'Boarding Gate' and 'Carlos'). For quite some time i couldn't get past writing two sentences about this movie and then things finally clicked. I don't mean to sound like some spiteful socialist with a vendetta against wealthy people, but weather it's fiction or non-fiction, I can't get too emotionally attached to rich people problems. What are "rich people problems", you ask? Stuff like losing a great deal of money when you're STILL going to remain rich afterwards, power struggles over the ownership of a corporation, trying to rise to the top in the business world, or trying to decide what to do with a dead relatives will (which is part of what 'Summer Hours' is about). But Summer Hours slowly creeps up on you.
In the film three siblings (Jeremie, Adrienne & Frederic) have to decide what to do with their mother's valuables after her passing (specifically a hefty art collection). "Jeremie" (played by Jeremie Renier) and "Adrienne" (Juliette Binoche) both live abroad (China and America, respectively) while the oldest; "Frederic" (played by Olivier Assayas-regular; Charles Berling) is the only sibling that actually lived somewhat close to their mother in France. Even though all three are put to the task of trying to figure out what to do with their mothers belongings after her passing, Frederic is the most emotionally attached. Frederic wants to keep the art collection together in order to try and get a museum to use it, while Jeremie and Adrienne want to sell the art 'Summer Hours' has quite a few touching and memorable moments (Frederic's quick emotional breakdown in his car on the side of the road is a standout moment for me), and there's great yet subtle performances from the actors (specifically Charles Berling).

'Summer Hours' brings up the importance of family and the distance that can come between siblings. The film also brings up an interesting trend that's been slowly developing over the years in indie/art house films that I don't hear many people talking about. Its something I like to call "acceptable product placement" (or is it acceptable?). 'Summer Hours' is one of a few recent "art house" films to get funding from a famous art museum with the stipulation that the museum must be shown or somehow incorporated in to the making of the film. Olivier Assayas got support from the Musee d'Orsay in France for 'Summer Hours'. Other similar scenarios involve Jim Jarmusch's 'Limits Of Control (The Museo Nacional Central de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid), Matthew Barney's 'The Order' (The Guggenheim) and Tsai Ming-Liang's 'Face' (The Louvre). Is this OK or not? Recently product placement in films like 'Ironman' (burger king & Audi), 'Darjeling Limited' (apple/ipod) or just about anything by Michael Bay has become pretty fucking ridiculous and unnecessary.

But do these afformentioned art house/non-studio films get a pass because their product placement isn't some soda or fancy car most of us cant afford? Personally, I say yes. But I can understand if people are skeptical or weary of the idea. These days it's becoming incredibly difficult for talented filmmakers with great ideas to get funding for their movies through the traditional channels (pitching script ideas, getting backing from studios, etc) so I say why not as long as the "product" that's being placed in front of us is something like a museum or an art gallery (which exists in order for us to learn from or gain some kind of knowledge or enlightenment). Why can't one artform help out another? Directors like Hal Hartley & Todd Solondz struggle to get their films funded and have to come out of pocket (Solondz emptied his life savings to make 'Palindromes' and Hartley is becoming more obscure with each release). Even a director like David Lynch is slowly becoming more and more obscure and finding it hard to get things produced and/or distributed. Anyone wonder why filmmakers from John Cameron Mitchell & Todd Haynes to Michael Mann are turning towards television instead of movies? 

its just become too hard to make a film these days - John Cameron Mitchell 


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