Saturday, June 9, 2012


Citi-Rustan's French Film Festival
Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex

*** I am reposting this review from 2 years ago. This film is featured in the Olivier Assayas 7 films retrospect for this year's French Film Festival ***

We are introduced to the characters through a family gathering. Helene, the matriarch is celebrating her 75th birthday and her 3 adult children together with their families have come for the special occasion. The setting is in an ancient house in the countryside. A place that holds numerous antiques, paintings and is fraught with memories. Helene then presents to her eldest son Frederic a well organized list on how to dispose the valuable belongings once she passes on from this world.

Eventually several months later, she dies and the daunting task falls on the shoulders of Frederic who is the only sibling living in Paris. His brother is an expat in Shanghai and busy with forging his career as well as taking care of his family. While the only daughter lives in New York and is occupied with her incoming wedding.

The film focuses on a relevant topic. The one we all have to face eventually in our lives - the tedious and sometimes painful process of inheritance. So we are presented with scenes of curators and appraisers taking stock of the vast antique collection. But it also shows us the different reactions of the siblings on the disposal of their ancestral house. As they sort through the numerous items, they reminisce about their relevance vis a vis their childhood.

It also has some touching and moving moments. A pivotal scene is when Frederic is suddenly overwhelmed with sadness and pulls his car over to a curb and just cries his heart out. Perhaps he didn't want this siblings and his family to see him as weak. I get the impression that is the only time he truly cried over the death of his mother and the passing of his childhood memories. How sad.

Another reflective sequence is a scene at the Museum D'Orsay where Frederic and his wife Lisa look at the objects they've donated which are now prominently displayed. An ironic contrast as it serves as a significant contribution to history and cultural artifacts yet at the same time there is a semblance that the objects are caged in a cold space and devoid of any human context in their family's life.

This family oriented film make us contemplate on the futility of hanging onto sentimental objects from our past which eventually end up as museum pieces or worse merely gathering dust in storage boxes.

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