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Friday, June 02, 2017

Things to Come

Things to Come (French title L'Avenir) was Isabelle Huppert's other film from 2016. While Elle won her an Academy Award nomination, Things to Come is a much more conventional performance in a film that is much more tricky. It has a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and I liked it fine, but I can't really tell you what it has to say.

Huppert plays a philosophy professor (academics are certainly the most represented profession in literature, and are right up there in film) who is in a happy marriage, but her mother is crazy and takes up a lot of her time. When, in short succession, her husband leaves her and her mother dies, she finds herself with freedom she hasn't had in a while. She visits some students living in the mountains and comes to terms with the changes she's made over the years.

There's all sorts of details in this film that seem like scattered clues. We have talk of Rousseau, who of course was one of the inspirations not only for the French revolution but also the American one; a cat named Pandora; a quotation about how desire is more important than happiness; and a student strike. I'm not sure what this all means, but Huppert's performance holds it together. She is interesting enough to get us through to the end.

What's perhaps most interesting about the film, written and directed by Mia Hansen-Love, is what does not happen. When the husband (also a teacher) reveals that he is moving out, he does so because his children know about it and make him choose. Huppert's reaction isn't that strong. We might expect that she will eventually have an affair with her protege (Roman Kolinka), but she doesn't--she goes up to his commune in the mountains where they make cheese and argue against authorship. She went all through the radical stuff in 1968, and seems too tired to get involved in it anymore (she defiantly crosses the student picket line and insists her students be allowed to cross, too).

I suppose, when you boil it down, the film is about freedom. Freedom to choose, freedom to live life the way one would like. If she had entered into an affair with anyone, the film would have been shackled to an archetype--older woman is reawakened by sex--but that is not this film. This film is about ideas instead of emotions, which you don't see very often, certainly in American films. Maybe that's why I was so puzzled by it.

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