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Made a year after his uneven, rather disappointing genre exercise Boarding Gate, 2008’s Summer Hours marks a crucial return to form for director and screenwriter Olivier Assayas. Not necessarily in terms of subject matter (Boarding Gate, as it turns out, has a lot in common with Assayas’ earlier work), but in the sense that it reconfirmed his abilities as both an impeccable craftsman and a peerless humanist. The movie begins with a long, protracted family get-together where 75-year-old Hélène (Edith Scob) upsets her birthday-party proceedings by displaying an unexpected, scrupulous interest in organizing her belongings and the family estate. Soon after, Hélène dies, and her surviving children—Manhattanite Adrienne (Juliette Binoche); Beijing resident Jérémie (Jérémie Renier); and Frédéric (Charles Berling), the only one still in France—are forced into quietly heated, dealmaking conversations, all of which reveal Assayas’ customary fascination with the meaning of art (many of the family heirlooms end up in the Musée d’Orsay) and the influence of memory on daily life. Shot in delicate, sun-dappled textures by Eric Gautier (also the cinematographer of Assayas’ latest film, Something in the Air), Summer Hours is also a gentle, measured commentary on an increasingly globalized world.
The film shows at 6 p.m. Saturday, 3:45 p.m. Sunday, and 7 p.m. Tuesday at AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $9–$11.50. (301) 495-6700. afi.com/silver.