Sep 09

My Ten Favourite Films Of 2008: 1.5: Summer Hours

Do You See + FT4 comments • 267 views

(Doesn’t count cos I saw it on DVD).

Perhaps I wasn’t clear at the start of this little project, but the list of favourite films from last year were films I saw in the cinema. This is not a problem because I tend to see over 100 films in the cinema a year, and so rarely miss something I want to see. It does mean occasionally I catch something on DVD later which is good, but usually i am excited enough about a release for it to get me to see it. Summer Hours, last years pastoral piece by Olivier Assayas managed to sneak past me in the summer. Possibly because I didn’t find the description (middle class family bicker about what to do with the family house when the inherit it) very exciting. But I really like Olivier Assayas, Irma Vep, Demonlover even Clean are all really good films to me. But DVD was how I saw Summer Hours, and yet it gripped me like no other DVD I have ever seen.

Gripped seems like an odd word, but the last fifteen minutes of Summer Hours are some of the most suspenseful I have seen in a while. This may seem odd when the film is a middle class pastoral problem film. It may seem even odder when I tell you the last fifteen minutes consists of a party thrown in the grand house by one of the grandchildren of the grand matriarch. But the film has been about this lovely but dead house, stuffed with art treasures. The suspense at the party is in how it might get wrecked, but also what kind of life the house is seeing for the first time in years. A complex film which asks quite deep questions about property, people and the effect of physical space on people, without ever seeming to ask these questions. Effortlessly engaging, Assayas (often better known for gritty exploitation) takes to this chamber piece with gusto. A wonderful little movie, which actually fit its littleness perfectly. but it would have looked lovely on the big screen too, and one day I will see it there.


  1. 1
    lonepilgrim on 23 Sep 2009 #

    Thanks for reminding me of this – I’ve been meaning to see it since reading this illuminating response:


  2. 2
    Pete Baran on 23 Sep 2009 #

    That’s a terrific review, though it does tell you a bit too much about what happens. But interesting to see we both had exactly the same reservations about seeing it.

  3. 3
    Mark M on 23 Sep 2009 #

    This is turning out of to be a terrific list of films I mostly haven’t seen – you’ve sold me on this, Definitely, Maybe (despite the Oasis title – the horror) and Planet Terror (I think I didn’t bother with because of the whole Grindhouse thing was so confusing and also Tarantino-masterminded (T bad, R good, as far as I’m concerned). No one, however, could be eloquent enough to convince me to see The Fall or see more of Speed Racer than it has already been my misfortune to see (but props for making the case for it).

  4. 4
    james on 27 Sep 2009 #

    we just showed this at the tiny theatre I run last week… I also found it to be unexpectedly EXCELLENT. I probably watched that last scene a half-dozen times.

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