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September 06, 2005

Summer Things

Embrassez qui Vous Voudrez
Michel Blanc - 2002
20th Century Fox U.K. Region 2 DVD

I figured it would appropriate to catch a movie titled Summer Things as close to Labor Day as possible. What caught my eye more than the title was noting that Charlotte Rampling was the star, and Michel Blanc was the director. Probably better known in the U.S. for his acting, Blanc has also been starring in films where he has served as screenwriter and director. The one previous film that I saw in which he performed triple duty, Dead Tired, Blanc presented a comic critique of the French film industry, and played both himself and an imposter. Rampling is better known now as the mature star of films by Francois Ozon, at a respectable career plateau as the woman of a certain age after several peaks and valleys after forty years. Summer Things is basically a trifle, an almost stereotypical French movie for French audiences.

The movie follows several couples and singles on vacation. A couple that are broke, but attempt to keep up appearances, go to the same resort town as their more affluent neighbors. The affluent couple have a daughter who is secretly going to Chicago with one of Dad's employees. Dad is having a secret affair with a sexual ambiguous employee. A husband accuses his very faithful wife of having affairs. Virtually everybody is going to bed with someone other than their spouse. While their are nods to homosexuality, bondage and voyeurism, the basic framework is from the classic French bedroom farce.

The film isn't very funny. Perhaps the problem is that one can sense the effort that has been put into making Summer Things. Rampling is the best thing of Summer Things as she is the calm center, the gravity that holds the film together. My own favorite summer vacation films are still two by Eric Rohmer - Summer and Pauline on the Beach, two films that are both funnier and more meaningful than Summer Things. In terms of a vacation with Charlotte Rampling, she lost a husband in Under the Sand and found a dead body in Swimming Pool, but both are better films.

The best part of this DVD was the featurette. I was afraid this would be another, boring documentary showing Blanc putting the actors through their paces, and the actors and director voicing praise of each other. Instead we have what are like little visual haikus - stills from the production with Blanc discussing the challenges of filming actors in cars, very small trailer housing, working with babies, and bringing out the right kind of performance after twenty takes. There is a lightness and poignancy in this brief short that the feature does not achieve.

Summer Things was popular in Europe. While I do not think the film is as good as Dead Tired, some may be interested in reading an interview with Michel Blanc.

Posted by peter at September 6, 2005 04:19 PM