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Family Values

Family Values (photo)

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A chamber piece resolutely devoid of flash and glitter, “Summer Hours” isn’t a film one would have anticipated from the director of such disparate provocations as “Irma Vep,” “Clean,” Demonlover” and “Boarding Gate.” Then again, Olivier Assayas’ new release is subtly provocative in its own right. Its willingness to lay out ideas about art and life in the age of globalization makes it his biggest dare yet. What distinguishes this Assayas movie from the others is the manner with which it sustains an unspoiled blend of the intimately emotional with the unequivocally intellectual. The cumulative strengths of “Summer Hours” as a philosophic elegy and a generational saga are powerful enough to throw everything else Assayas has done in illuminated relief.

The movie’s first summer dream is an idyllic one, with children playing on the grounds of an old country house whose widowed owner Hélène (Edith Scob) is celebrating her 75th birthday with her brood of three accomplished 40-something offspring. The light surrounding the party is festive and bright, but shadows seep in from the edges. Hélène knows — or, at least, suspects — that this may be her last birthday, and she’s intent on making sure the house’s 19th century art treasures, most of which (lithographs, glassware, furniture, original Corot paintings) belonged to her distinguished uncle, will be cared for in her absence.

Eldest son Frédéric (Charles Berling), an economics professor, regards each artifact with the mildest impatience. He’s taking it for granted that the house and its contents will always be in the family, no matter what happens to his mother. But it becomes all too clear, after Hélène’s death, just how perishable those dreams are. His sister Adrienne (Juliette Binoche) is a fashion designer with more at stake in America and Japan than in France, while younger brother Jérémie (Jérémie Renier) chooses to raise his family close to his shoe business in China. It’s left to Frédéric, the only one staying close to home, to decide what to do with Hélène’s stuff, and what he does is bring in appraisers and auctioneers to, piece by piece, yard by yard, disperse a rich family legacy.

05132009summerhours.jpgAssayas clearly shares Frédéric’s disdain for the economic forces that erode collective memories and transform art into commodity. But there’s nothing programmatic or (obviously) ideological in his approach. He doesn’t condemn Frédéric’s sibs for the life choices they make any more than he chastises their own children for all but bypassing the craftsmanship of their ancestors. Indeed, the writer/director’s melancholy resignation with culture’s casual dismantling arouses far deeper emotions than could be summoned with a more open attack on corporate culture; though a few zingers are fired here and there by Frédéric and Adrienne, mostly at Jérémie’s labor practices. But even they yield to what’s become the mantra of 21st century progress: It is what it is and what can you do, anyway? Making a movie about it all seems to be one answer — and Assayas has made one of the most haunting, probing, and (in the end) tentatively hopeful one could possibly imagine.

The world at large seems divided in two camps — those who dug Rian Johnson’s 2005 debut feature, “Brick,” for its cunning appropriation of ’20s pulp-magazine tropes for a contemporary teen crime thriller and those who thought the whole exercise was too coy and airless for its own good. I was — and remain — very much in the former constituency. Subletting Dashiell Hammett’s argot without sounding like a scratchy 78 RPM record is one thing, but using it to effectively bend the suburban high school subgenre without losing hold on plausibility is quite a larger thing. Risky, for sure, and you wouldn’t want to see it done again any time soon. But “Brick” had enough assurance going for it at the jump to make one wonder (avidly, avidly) what its writer/director would try next.

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Uncle-Buck

Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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