Assayas,director of the monumental Carlos,with its worldly references,here shows he is also able to direct a quieter fictional film of the power of memories and the beauty of summer's passing.This drama about an elderly art collector,Helene(Edith Scob),whose birthday(75) brings the annual summer visit from her 3 children, Frederic (Charles Berling),an economist,Adrienne(Juliette Binoche), the designer for a Japanese store based in New York,and Jeremie,who works for Puma in China.They are accompanied by partners and children,although Adrienne is engaged to a man in New York who we see later in the film.
Nearing the end of her life,Helene is slightly depressed,thinking about passing on her estate in the country and her art collection, in memory of her uncle,artist Paul Berthier,to her son Frederick,who wants to share it with his siblings and her grandchildren.Her children begin to discuss what will happen to Helene's art collection(works by Bethier,by Redilon and Corot,as well as beautiful vases,cabinets and furniture) when she dies.Each sibling has different plans.Adrienne and Jeremie live abroad.Frederick is wanting to preserve the art works in the family and keep the country estate with the housekeeper Elouise for the family.We feel the draining away of authenticity and identity as the house becomes a ghost of itself.A nice touch is when Elouise is given one of the beautiful twin vases to take away when the house closes,saying she wouldn'y have wanted anything valuable.
The elegance and subtlety of treatment(without being talky),the concept of preserving or profiting from family heirlooms,the younger generation who have no connection to them,the uprooting and dislocating and dispersal of family life,is done with sentiment but without sentimentality.Berling carries the main load of the film very well,but the other actors are just right in this measured, poignant examination of time passing and life moving on in modern France.The younger generation spend one last week-end in this beautiful house in the country as they will not inherit it.Playing someinteresting music,surprisingly,by the Incredible String Band.A small gem.
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