Review / ‘Things To Come’ (M) ****

A FILM In which the principal character teaches philosophy at a Paris high school must struggle to make a big box office impact. For filmgoers who enjoy thinking about what they are seeing, it offers quite a lot.

Nathalie enjoys her profession. Her marriage to Heinz (André Marcon), comfortable rather than exciting, has provided two children, now young adults. But behind Heinz’s stolid façade lies a heart capable of passion – inevitably, toward a younger woman. The marriage is irretrievable, the breakup civil.

Nathalie frequently visits her demanding mother Yvette (Edith Scob), a faded beauty, a hypochondriac refusing to go into care, living in a luxurious rather than opulent apartment, her only companion a large black cat named Pandora. Yvette’s excited – she’s being considered for a role in a show in which she is to play the deceased! Writer/director Mia Hansen-Lǿve’s sense of the ridiculous is sharp.

Outside the school, students are revolting against political measures. Nathalie’s publisher is pressing her to agree to a refreshment of the next edition of her book that sells well among philosophical pedagogical folk. But her life is generally satisfying.

Nathalie does not take a lover. Why should she? She knows numerous men whose company she enjoys. A house on the Brittany coast provides an escape.

Hansen-Lǿve has imbued her film (reportedly based on her own mother who is indeed a professor of philosophy) with delicious visual beauty and staged it with impressive economy of resources (and a couple of goofs). Playing Nathalie in her mid-60s, Isabelle Huppert, heart-stoppingly lovely, displays impressive physical capabilities.

“Things to Come” is low-budget filmmaking of a high order. And its closing moments, to the accompaniment of “Unchained Melody”, imply a foretaste of Nathalie’s future.

At Palace Electric

 

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