Things to Come

THINGS TO COME, drama, not rated, in French with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - — Jonathan Richards

In the clos­ing mo­ments of his great, ele­giac 1992 Western Un­for­given, Clint East­wood’s Will Munny dis­cusses a killing with the Schofield Kid. The Kid says, “Yeah, well, I guess they had it com­ing.” “We all got it com­ing, kid,” Munny replies. That’s a truth about the fu­ture as well. We all got it com­ing. And it is al­most cer­tain to come in forms, large and small, that will take us by sur­prise.

For Nathalie Chazeaux (Is­abelle Hup­pert), a phi­los­o­phy teacher, the fu­ture keeps ar­riv­ing with rev­e­la­tions that are both or­di­nary and life-chang­ing. A for­mer rad­i­cal, she now finds her­self im­pa­tient with the new crop of stu­dent demon­stra­tors who have thrown up a picket line at her school, and blows past them im­pa­tiently to con­duct her class, and ex­plore topics like the na­ture of truth.

Her mother, Yvette (Édith Scob, the in­génue of Ge­orges Franju’s 1960 clas­sic Eyes With­out a Face ),isa weight on her life, a drama queen con­stantly beg­ging at­ten­tion and threat­en­ing sui­cide, who must fi­nally be moved into a new sit­u­a­tion of her own, a nurs­ing home, leav­ing Nathalie with the un­wanted care and feed­ing of her cat.

Nathalie’s pub­lish­ing house an­nounces that they are keep­ing up with the times by is­su­ing a new, dumb­ed­down edi­tion of her text­book — and charg­ing her for copies. Her long­time editor ad­mits to Nathalie that he doesn’t like it ei­ther, but that’s the way things are these days, the wave of the fu­ture.

A bril­liant for­mer stu­dent and pro­tégé, Fa­bien (Ro­man Kolinka), comes back into her life. He’s now dropped out of his aca­demic track, and is in­volved with a com­mune of an­ar­chists, which brings Nathalie face to face with the gen­er­a­tion gap that shows her how far she has moved from her ide­al­is­tic Com­mu­nist be­gin­nings. Her hus­band, Heinz (An­dré Mar­con), also a teacher, was never a rad­i­cal, or an ad­ven­turer of any kid. Over the years they have set­tled into a com­pan­ion­able but un­ex­cit­ing mar­riage that has pro­duced two chil­dren, now grown. But Heinz too is mov­ing into the fu­ture; pres­sure from their kids forces him to choose be­tween Nathalie and his mis­tress, and he goes with the lat­ter. These buf­fet­ing winds of change up­set the course of Nathalie’s life, but, as por­trayed by Hup­pert in one of this or any year’s great cin­ema per­for­mances, they barely knock her off stride. “Are you sure?” she asks Heinz when he an­nounces that he’s leav­ing her. Yes, he ad­mits shame­facedly, his head hang­ing like a dog caught with his paws on the kitchen counter. “I thought you’d al­ways love me,” she says, with­out much emo­tion, if not quite with a shrug.

That un­ruf­fled sur­face masks a deeper vul­ner­a­bil­ity, but Hup­pert shows us a char­ac­ter with mar­tial arts-like re­serves of strength that find a way to turn life’s as­saults into pos­i­tive di­rec­tions. Her ma­jor up­set with Heinz’s de­par­ture seems to be that he has taken a few books she con­sid­ers to be hers.

Cut loose from her moor­ings, she pays a visit to the com­mune where Fa­bien and his an­ar­chist friends cook up meals and schemes. She still feels young (the re­mark­able Hup­pert is sixty-three and looks 20 years younger), spry enough even to en­ter­tain mildly erotic feel­ings about Fa­bien, but be­ing around these ide­o­log­i­cal hot­heads she comes to ap­pre­ci­ate the per­spec­tive and wis­dom that a few decades have given her. These are the at­tributes that give her the bal­last she needs to nav­i­gate life’s shoals and rapids with style, and of­ten with hu­mor. As her life is stripped of its struc­ture and obli­ga­tions, her world opens up. The chal­lenge is fig­ur­ing out what to do with it.

This is the fifth fea­ture from French di­rec­tor Mia Hansen-Løve, who wrote Things to Come (the fu­tur­is­tic-sound­ing ti­tle is a clunky trans­la­tion of the French ti­tle L’ Avenir, mean­ing “fu­ture”) with Hup­pert in mind, a choice that has paid off hand­somely. The di­rec­tor’s par­ents were both phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sors, so the movie’s mi­lieu of char­ac­ter and en­vi­ron­ment comes from a place she knows well. Hansen-Løve is the wife (and for­mer pro­tégé) of Olivier As­sayas, whose 2008 film Sum­mer Hours also fea­tures Édith Scob as a dy­ing ma­tri­arch.

This has been a ban­ner year in the al­ready ex­traor­di­nary ca­reer of Is­abelle Hup­pert, who also gives a sear­ing per­for­mance as a rape vic­tim seek­ing re­venge in Elle, a turn which gar­nered her a Golden Globe, set­ting her up as a lead­ing con­tender in the Os­car race. What­ever hap­pens there, these are two per­for­mances that ce­ment her stature as one of our great film artists.

Tra­jec­tory of life: Is­abelle Hup­pert

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