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NYFF: "Things To Come" with Isabelle Huppert

Jason reporting from the NYFF on the new film from director Mia Hansen-Løve, currently scheduled to open in limited release on December 2nd

At about the midpoint of Things to Come Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) says to a friend that she's "found freedom" but we know better. We've been watching freedom thrust upon her in disorienting spasms, as her husband's left her and her publishing house has tossed her old-fashioned intellectualism aside (one of them hurls out the word "classy" like it's going to burn her hands). And in truth Nathalie doesn't quite know what to make of it, this "found" freedom of hers. "Extraordinary," is what she calls it, and that approaches the thing, but not quite the way she's selling it at that moment...

It matters here who she's speaking to - she's come to visit the bohemian writer's retreat of a former student. And just out of reach, unspoken but delicately felt by all those involved (including us watching) there's a playful tension of the sexual sort between the two of them. It's not the sort of thing that's burning up the screen but he's adorable, she's now available, and she's trying to decide how much freedom she's really up for. (There's a hysterically awkward scene earlier on where a man seems to sniff out Nathalie's newfound availability like a horny rottweiler, much to her dismay.) It seems that Nathalie's really pretty comfortable with who Nathalie has become in life - the puzzle, with the world itself around her changing, is to fit that comfortable person into this new tumultuous plot.

Director Mia Hansen-Løve and Isabelle Huppert chart Nathalie's journey in empathetic little strokes since this not a great big mid-life crisis we're witnessing. Nathalie takes things too much in stride, and she's too smart for self-destruction. This is only reshuffling; one set of artfully white-spined philosophy books replacing another set of tastefully white-spined philosophy books on a bookshelf.

If that sounds sterile then you might not share my affection for bookshelves - this film is a warm embrace for bibiliophiles, the passing back and forth of literature the very language it speaks; try not to gape in horror when Nathalie comes home to find her husband's cleared out half of the books in their apartment.

Watching Isabelle Huppert laugh almost always comes as a shock but this is Huppert in lovely mode, warm and freckled and real. Those familiar askance-eyed masochists and dominatrixes of The Piano Teacher and Elle and so on are nowhere to be seen. To be honest sometimes Huppert makes me even uneasier when she's playing nice ladies as I am always waiting for the other spiked heel to drop. But Nathalie is a stunning and fresh creation from the actress, who turns out to still have more tricks up her sleeves than we may imagine. There are plenty of things to come all around.

Previously at the NYFF
More from Jason 

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Reader Comments (10)

My favorite film at NYFF. Tears well up just thinking about it. Devastating in its very quiet ways. Imagine having the confidence to know your film would be so powerful when it's so understated, an amazing directorial feat.

October 18, 2016 | Registered CommenterMurtada Elfadl

Seeing it back to back with ELLE (the press screenings were held that way) was sort of rough, because everything small and subtle about THINGS TO COME got DEVOURED by everything that's the complete opposite in ELLE. I love both films but they're worlds - hell, universes - apart, and by the time ELLE was through I really had to work myself back to Things to Come, mentally speaking. It took some effort. ELLE does not want to let go! But yes TTC is absolutely lovely.

October 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Better Isabell Huppert get her Oscar nomination or I will flip out over Hilary Swank's puke!

October 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterchofer

It's bewildering that Huppert has the most Cesar nominations, but only ONE win!
She has to get an Oscar nom this year.
I was also shocked by Isabelle as the hilariously wine drinking mom in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. An underrated movie, with amazing cast.

October 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

I feel NOTHING about Viola or Annette winning the Oscar but I will be in cloud nine if Huppert were to receive her first nod:)

October 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJans

Loved this film. There's something just about watching a woman like this *exist* that is endlessly fascinating.

October 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Loved this film. There's something just about watching a woman like this *exist* that is endlessly fascinating.

October 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

no coverage of lost city of z at NYFF?

October 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterlcoz

lcoz - review tonight.

October 19, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Love me some Isabelle Huppert too. I can't even remember the very first movie I've seen her in. I'm guessing that it might have been the laborious Madame Bovary. I love her in virtually any movie she's in from her existential philosopher in I Heart Huckabees to that of a stage actress in that acquired taste La Fausse Suivante and her scorned woman in Gabrielle.

I am happy this actress even exists for the celluloid consumption of cinemagoers. In my opinion, she is the most talented, fearless and subtlest among the living actresses out there (which is saying a lot because the world has given us Maggie Cheung, Fernanda Montenegro, Vanessa Redgrave, etc.

Yes, even an Oscar nomination would be absolutely great. Though I am just as positive she won't win if it's Elle (too many puritans in the Academy -- hopefully rectified a bit by a wider call for diversity to break the conventional voting bloc). I hope I'm wrong. More than the Oscars, may she win another Cesar, another Cannes award, another Bafta. In my world these awards matter more, even as I acknowledge that an Oscar nomination/win will get her mileage and meatier roles.

October 21, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterowl

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