Monday, June 1, 2009

Quick Hits: Food, Inc. and Summer Hours

SIFF screenings for the following have ended, but one title
has already opened in Seattle, while the other opens shortly.


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FOOD, INC. ***

Food, Inc. examines the costs of putting value and convenience over nutrition and environmental impact. Robert Kenner explores the subject from all angles, talking to farmers, activists, and authors, like producer Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), and takes his camera into factory farms and abattoirs where chicken grow too fast to walk properly, cows eat feed pumped with toxic chemicals, and illegal immigrants risk life and limb to bring these products to market at an affordable cost. If eco-docs, like Super-Size Me and King Corn, tend to preach to the converted, Kenner presents his findings in such an engaging fashion that Food, Inc. may well reach the very viewers who could benefit from it the most: harried workers who don't have the time or in-
come to read every book and to eat non-genetically modified produce every day.

Click here for the accompanying book. Food Inc. opens on 6/26 (venue TBA).

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SUMMER HOURS ****

What interests me in the movie in not so much the
material value of things, but their symbolic value.

-- Olivier Assayas in the production notes

For a film about objects, Summer Hours presents a surprisingly affecting scenario. Then again, Olivier Assayas has never taken the easy road to catharsis. It's no spoiler to note that family matriarch Hélène (Edith Scob) passes away shortly after her 75th birthday, at which she tells her three adult children (Charles Berling, Juliet-
te Binoche, and Jérémie Renier), that they're free to do what they want with her precious objets d’art, including Musée d’Orsay-loaned works by Degas and Redon. Were he a different kind of director, the superficial would lock horns with the righteous, but these characters aren't quite so simplistic. Largely devoid of music, once an Assayas signature, the movie ends with a raucous house party that recalls his 1994 feature Cold Water, and Berling continues to do some of his finest work for the filmmaker, anchoring this deceptively rich picture with his subtle performance.

Summer Hours, which opened on 5/29, continues at the Harvard Exit.

Sidenote: Though I've been avidly following Assayas' career for 15 years now, I wasn't a big fan of his last film. For Video Librarian, I wrote, "The last act plays like
an attempt at a Johnny To crime drama with guns, drugs, and double-crossings (Kel-
ly Lin is a To veteran), but Assayas lacks the flair for this kind of thing. Intimacy
has always been one of his specialties, and Boarding Gate feels like an exercise in
detachment. Despite [Asia] Argento's earthy sexuality, there's no real heat."

Other recommended openings (all playing at Landmark Theatres TBA): Tulpan (6/26), Moon (7/3), The Hurt Locker (7/10), In the Loop (7/31), and The Cove (8/7).

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Scob as shot by the great Eric Gautier

Endnote: Images from the Buenos Aires Film Festival, Cinematic
Intelligence Agency
, and Breath of Life - A2P Cinema Blog.

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