Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Summertime blues ...

SUMMER THINGS, 2002. A quite amusing French comedy by Michel Blanc (MONSIEUR HIRE) who also wrote it. A disparate group go on vacation to Le Touquet: the wealthy Charlotte Rampling whose husband Jacques Dutronc decides to stay at home as his life is rather complicated – he has been having an affair with their friend, Julie a single mother, and is now seeing his personal assistant who seems to be a transsexual. Their friends Vero (Karin Giard) and her husband are broke and trying to keep up appearances – they are staying in a caravan site. Their teenage son Loic (Gaspard Ulliel – THE SEA WALL) hates this and manages to get a bed at the hotel as Vero is looking after Julie’s baby.
Julie falls for a hotel lothario, and Loic meets a rich girl who takes him sailing. There is also Michel Blanc who is insanely jealous over his beautiful wife Carole Bouquet as he imagines every man is having sex with her. Charlotte and Bouquet becomer friends and drink lots of champagne while poor Vero tries to keep up. Lots of comedy situations then, including Rampling and Dutronc’s sex-mad daughter who is in Chicago with an employee of his who has stolen some money for the trip and is promptly dumped by the daughter for a guy she meets on the plane – he is then mugged and robbed and left on his own in Chicago. By the end of it all Loic comforts Charlotte who is having a miserable time and gives her the courage to confront the holes in her marriage as she insists on separate bedrooms. It is all fitfully amusing in a Gallic way as Blanc works out his Robert Altman/Woody Allen inspired interweaving tales, it almost makes one feel like one has been on holiday too. Rampling is effective as usual in another of these late starring roles of hers (SWIMMING POOL, UNDER THE SAND, HEADING SOUTH etc).

SUMMER HOURS, 2008. A more sombre richly textured French drama by Olivier Assayas. Helene (Edith Scob – the mad doctor’s disfigured daughter in 1959’s EYES WITHOUT A FACE, reviewed here last year, French label) is the 75 year old matriarch facing her imminent demise as she sorts out the legacy she will leave for her 3 children. She was the mistress of a great artist so there are a lot of valuables which Museums are interested in. Two of the children though no longer live in France and rarely return – Juliette Binoche is the successful designer living and getting married in New York, Jeremie Renier and his family now live in China, only the eldest Charles Berling and his family live in Paris. He wants to keep the family home for all of them and their children to enjoy but the other two want to sell.

They get their way as we see the ramifications following Helene’s death. The house and grounds are loving explored, Isabelle Sadoyan is just right as the aged retainer. We see some pieces on display at the Musee d'Orsay as the house is stripped and teenagers have a farewell party there. There is a lot of sadness at the nature of how things change as families splinter and heritage takes over. A very satisfying movie then, like a good read with well-rounded characters.

10.30 PM SUMMER, 1966. A return visit to Dassin’s film of Marguerite Duras’s story which I had not seen since its release. A very oddball confection but with three people I like, heading by Melina Mercouri who is travelling around Spain with husband Peter Finch and friend Romy Schneider. A great cast then but it is all somehow very risible as Melina goes into over-drive. There is a murderer on the loose whom Melina tries to assist escape, as Finch and Romy also get involved. This provided a lot of hilarity at the time, I remember Pauline Kael being particularly choice on this version of exploring threesomes. For me though Finch and Schneider are always endlessly fascinating and I like Melina a lot too – I spent an afternoon with her once in 1968 when she was leading a protest march in London in Trafalgar Square about poverty in Africa – in Biafra then. I was an idealistic twenty-two year old and Melina looked terrific in a long red dress with lots of gold chains. The Dassin-Mercouri films get a lot of stick now but I like them! Melina can often resemble a croaky drag queen but she is certainlty intense here - that scene where she watches Finch & Schneider (a terrific pairing of favourite people of mine) together on the balcony as the rain beats down and the wanted murderer also hides on the roofs is brilliantly staged.


I will now be away for maybe two weeks - not alas on vacation as in SUMMER THINGS but have a hospital engagement (knee replacement surgery) followed by extensive physiotherapy, and I am not allowed my laptop! but I shall be returning with an appraisal of Visconti's LUDWIG, Antonioni's rare OBERWALD MYSTERY [below, with Monica Vitti] and his segment in I TRE VINTI, 5 Catherine Deneuve films (I shall keep her A CHRISTMAS TALE until that time), 4 versions of DORIAN GRAY, more silents like THIEF OF BAGHDAD and BEN HUR (1925), NATHALIE GRANGER and other Marguerite Duras films, KINSEY and other gay interest movies, and more People and Movies We Like and of course more Art, Trash and lots of Glamour!

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