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Summer Hours – A well-intentioned, highly acclaimed French drama from 2008.  Three adult children cope with the loss of their mother, but more importantly, they have to determine what to do with the extensive art collection she’s left behind.  The movie has small moments that work and it gradually touches on themes and emotional gestures that viewers can take something from; valuing the things which decendents leave you, don’t discard the past quickly, etc.  But at its core it’s a movie that never boils, or even tries to.  “Summer” is content to make our protagonists all nice, pleaseant, amiable family members.  No one does anything terrible or selfish to one another and all parties avoid high drama or grand theatrics.  In short, it is dull.  It’s the kind of emotionally understated, high minded, art house, psuedo drama critics love to worship, while slightly less hoity types begin to navel gaze after a while.  Gaze into my navel I did.  It isn’t bad and it isn’t a painful sit, but after the third or fourth conversation about the importance of desks, vases and artwork, it starts to feel static.  I don’t need lurid theatrics, but at least some not so civil disagreements would’ve livened things up a bit.
Hunger – Some movies are made with the mindset that those viewing it already know something, or even a lot, about the subject matter.  “Hunger” is about IRA prisoner Bobby Sands and his hunger strike in a British prison in 1981 and a great deal of the film plays out before this becomes apparent.  “Hunger” begins by following the strange and forboding morning routine of an English prison guard.  It then moves onto the lives of two incarcerated  IRA prisoners and their hellish existence in Maze prison which consist of routine beatings and humilations at the hands of British guards.  Then roughly halfway through, these characters are dropeed and the film shifts its focus over to Sands and his hunger strike.  Sands organizes a the strike in which he becomes the first of dozens of prisoners to protest for political rights through self-inflicted starvation.  He then proceeds to starve to death.  That’s the movie in a nutshell.  Fans of unapologetic realism in cinema will likely champion “Hunger.”  It’s a film that’s always easy to respect but equally hard to watch.  The movie has no interest in cheap sentiment or overblown politics.  Though it’s tale is a worthy one, this viewer felt as if great gaps of story were missing.  The only thing I know about Sands is that he was a politcal prisoner, he was poorly treated in prison and that he starved himself to death.  Adding to this sensation of sparsity is a near total lack of dialogue. With the exception of an impressive 17 minute, unedited scene in the middle of the film, there’s virtually no conversation between anyone.  Director and co-screenwriter Steve McQueen has been sparse to a fault.

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