Let’s talk about movies now. Or films. 😉
As much as I love the big blockbuster movies from the U.S., I think that there is something that Hollywood lacks–heart. Of course, I think this is intentional. Movie-making is more of a business in Hollywood, than it is a form of artistic expression, which is why I love it so much when organizations like Alliance France and The Japan Foundation sponsor film showings that make it possible for anyone to watch really good films for free.
I was able to see 3 movies at this year’s French Film Festival. I didn’t like all of them, in fact I didn’t understand at all 2 of them, but I can appreciate their uniqueness and how they reminded me that movies are in fact, art, and not just entertainment, like how Hollywood makes it to be. Anyway, since I didn’t understand the other 2 films, I’ll talk about the only one I actually understood, and really liked.
Summer Hours, or L’heure d’été in French, is about siblings (2 brothers and 1 sister who is played by Juliette Binoche) who sell their ancestral home (if you can call it that) after their mother (their only living parent) dies. Since they’re related to a famous artist, the house is full of valuable art pieces–paintings and furniture that their family has acquired through the years. Hence, there was some trepidation about selling, but since it was more practical to sell, that’s what they did.
I can imagine this as one of the movies that we would watch in my Art Appreciation class in college. So I can also imagine that some people won’t get it. I’m not really very artsy, but I really really like these kinds of stories. These everyday drama, that people tend to overlook. I just love it, because it’s so realistic, but not at all like someone’s boring home video.
I usually say that I’m more attracted to character-driven stories rather than plot-driven ones, but in this case, the story is neither, so the fact that it’s still great despite none of the characters really standing out or the story really standing out, well, it’s just real brilliant. I mean, it’s just about a family, splitting their inheritance. When you get right down to it, that’s all it is. And with people dying everyday, we can be sure that this kind of thing, splitting inheritance, happens everyday, too. But who knew that it could be this interesting and, poingnant?
Right. At this point, I am again reminded of how I’m such an inadequate writer. I just can’t describe well enough something that’s this good. So, I will be my idiot self and say things at random (BTW, there will be spoilers):
- I can actually relate to the story, most especially to the oldest sibling, Frederic. Although I’m not the oldest of my siblings, I think myself to be the most sentimental, and at one point, when my own family was discussing the possibility of selling our house in Las Pinas and maybe permanently living in New Zealand where my sister already is, I did say something like what Frederic said, that it’s going to be hard to imagine other people living in our house. People with different ways and different beliefs and different routines. I think I’d be real sad if that happens.
- I’m a big fan of family legacies. I’m such a sucker for things like “this has been in our family for 3 generations”. I don’t know, there’s just something about leaving something behind that actually lasts, that the next generation cares about as much as you do, and will also pass on to the generation after theirs. So yeah, I was really sad when they decided to sell even the Corot paintings, which had been a gift to their uncle, and one that Frederic used to tell his children that they were going to own someday.
- My friends cried on the part where the children left the house and the mother was left and everything was quiet again. I cried a little bit, too. But what really got my tears was the part at the end, when Frederic’s daughter brought her boyfriend to the bush behind the house and she told him that she and her grandmother used to pick cherries there, and that her grandmother told her that someday, she’d be bringing her granddaugther to pick cherries there, too. And then she cried because that would never happen since they’ve sold the house. It’s really sad. 😥
- The museum scene was also brilliant. I’ve suddenly found myself being somewhat against museums. Although I’m happy they’re there so things from the past can be preserved, it does somewhat feel like a cemetery of antiques. I mean, yeah, more people will be able to see those works of art when they’re there, but again, like Frederic said, “They [just] pass by.”
- Just one more pet peeve about Hollywood movies and their difference with good films; I don’t understand why in most Hollywood movies, they treat their audience like idiots, and they have to explain everything. Sometimes, the characters do nothing but talk and talk and talk, and they try to use big words to sound profound, but just end up wasting time. Haven’t they ever heard of “Less is more.” ? I really admire films that are able to convey messages just by the actors’ facial expressions, or just by zooming in at a certain object—in this film, I absolutely loved the scene where the camera focused on one of the vases in a display case in the museum. In an earlier scene, the housekeeper said that “Vases without flowers are dead.” which seems quite true, since I guess the function of a vase is to put flowers in, so when you don’t put flowers then it pretty much loses its purpose. So when they showed the exact same vase in the museum, on display with other vases, and without any flowers in it, like I said earlier, it looked like a vase cemetery.
Anyway, lots more things to talk about. I wish I could watch the movie again and talk about it in more detail with friends, but alas, yesterday was the last day of the French Film Festival, and I will have to wait until next year to see another movie that will maybe have as much insight.