07 January 2010

Summer Hours / Of Time and the City / 9 / Peter and the Wolf

The other night I watched Olivier Assayas's Summer Hours. It's been on all these critics' lists but it always sounded dull or severe or heady or, mostly, like it would be one of those off-putting movies that expect us to get all worked up about the petty concerns of people with too much wealth. Fortunately, it wasn't quite what I feared it sounded like. The story is basically that the matriarch of a French family has a birthday party with her three children and their families there and there's a lot of talk about her uncle, a late famous artist, and the art collection, housed in the country house where she lives, because she's getting older and so forth and recognizes she's going to die. Once she dies, the children need to decide what they'll do with the house and the art. Whether they keep things or sell them. And it's really about how you have the one son (Charles Berling) living in France who's still attached to these things, then the other son (Jeremie Renier) who's working for PUMA in China, and then Juliette Binoche as the daughter whose life is in America now. I mean, it's really about the way the French have to come to terms with their heritage as they're moving toward the future. And, as an American where most things are so new, where my pre-War apartment building seems older than most things anywhere you go, I kind of identify with the grandchildren in the movie who don't have a choice about holding on to their heritage. I guess one of the questions is about the value of heritage. I feel like the movie doesn't really put forth a strong opinion on the subject. That it's more a document of a transition from one era to another. It's really lovely though. I particularly love the scenes with the matriarch and with the housekeeper. I also feel like the cinematography is amazing. The light in the movie is exquisite. And I like the way the light has such a different quality based on where they are. It kind of seemed to change after the mother died. It was like things felt so lyrical and then came to feel more modern, and then at the end there's this party with some grandchildren at the house and it almost makes you think of children playing about in some old ruins or something. I guess this movie made me feel very present in the passage of history. A

As for Of Time and the City, I don't think I was in the right mood to watch it. It's sort of an experimental documentary about Liverpool, England. I've heard it described as a film essay, so maybe that's what it is. Aside from the feeling that I might have already seen it before on Sundance in my last apartment where I had cable television, the main thought I had while watching the movie was, "I could be watching Derek Jarman's The Last of England instead." I think I'll have to watch it again but I'm not sure it worked for me, aside from it being fun to pick out the literary quotes and things. C

Then last night we watched 9, the animated science fiction thing produced by Tim Burton. My boyfriend thought it was cliché and that there wasn't enough plot or character development. I think my roommate agreed with him. I really didn't though. I liked that it was kind of spare. It reminded me of when I saw The Bourne Ultimatum with my old roommate and I said it was the best one and he said it didn't have enough plot, whereas I felt that it was the best one precisely because it didn't waste time with all these plot conventions which aren't usually ever that interesting anyway. In most cases, I'd rather be spared unconvincing dialogue and phony relationships. I liked this movie. I thought the original short was kind of nice as well. B

After that we watched the Oscar winning animated short film Peter and the Wolf (2006). It's the music and the story by Tchaikovsky. It was nice. Cute, right? The music was nice. The duck was darling. The cat was funny. It was charming. I didn't really connect to it though. C

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