VIDEO: The trailer for L'heure d'été (Summer Hours)
In his understated, intricate L'heure d'été, Olivier Assayas comments on globalization and materialism by way of a simple story of three siblings dividing the contents of their mother's estate in rural France. Only eldest son Frédéric (Charles Berling), a busy Parisian, wants to keep the idyllic country house, which is on display in a lush opening segment where the 75th birthday of matriarch Hélène (Edith Scob) is celebrated.
Adrienne (Juliette Binoche) is a designer based in New York, Jérémie (Jérémie Renier) works in China, and, to brother Frédéric's dismay, both want to sell. Hélène's last wishes include managing the effects of her uncle, a noted painter to whom she was romantically attached.
In a rich closing sequence, Frédéric's daughter Sylvie (Alice de Lencquesaing) holds a party at the house, then escapes into the near-by forest with her boyfriend. By this point, Assayas has returned to delicious stylistic territory not explored since 1994's L'eau froide, and to a wistful view of a fast-vanishing French culture.