Olivier Assayas's "Summer Hours" comes out on DVD today.
Hollywood studios often consider young males as their target demographic, but moviegoers with broader sensibilities should rarely consider age as a restrictive force. With very few exceptions, a story rises or falls on the basis of what appears onscreen. I was met with continuing resistance at the Sundance Film Festival in January when I expressed my reservations over the middling plot of Blue Valentine, Derek Cianfrance's gorgeous but narratively uneven portrait of a disastrous marriage. More than once, I was told, "Maybe you would understand it better if you had children." Or maybe people with children are seeing a movie that doesn't exist. I know a gay colleague whose love for "Blue Valentine" certainly has nothing to do with a deeper connection to the relationship featured in the movie. Subjective involvement need not correlate with spectatorial identification. Not for me, anyway.
If that were true, I would lack any emotional connection to movies featuring characters whose life experiences lie firmly outside my own. But I love Olivier Assayas's patient character study, "Summer Hours," which Criterion releases on DVD next week, despite that its central protagonist is several decades older than me. Assayas's story revolves around a middle aged economist (Charles Berling) coping with the aftermath of his mother's death, selling off her vast treasure trove of art works and other precious belongings, and sifting through his childhood memories with the support of his two oft-distracted siblings. I have one sibling and, thankfully, both of my parents remain alive and well. But the emotional undercurrent of "Summer Hours" resonated with me quite strongly both times I viewed it.