Sunday, November 27, 2016

Life's Curveballs

L'avenir/Things to Come (2016) - Hansen-Løve
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Natalie (the indomitable Isabelle Huppert), is a philosophy professor. She's married to a fellow academic, has two grown up kids and an aging, needy mother. They have a house in Brittany where their kids grew up, shelves full of books, in short a comfortable bourgeois life style. Natalie's life is thrown out of whack when her husband of 25 years tells her that there is another woman and he's moving in with her. Then her frail mother needs to be put in a nursing home. And she need to take care of her mother's cat named Pandora.

Mia Hansen-Løve, quite possibly the most astute observer of life and the passage of time in all contemporary writer/filmmaker, pulls off perhaps the most mature, nuanced and subtle work to date. In the Sarkozy era France background in political and social instability with student demonstrations dominating in and out of classroom (whatever the circumstances is, she makes a point that it's not unlike May 68'), the director contemplates the life that we thought we built for ourselves and the fragility of it.

And Huppert is, as always, marvelous. Her Natalie is literally losing everything- her marriage, parent, income from her text books that didn't get renewed. Surely there are some tearful nights alone in bed, but she is taking it all in strides. One of the members of her former student's collective in the mountain farm asks her political opinion on something (I don't remember what), she says she's been there and done that, that she's outgrown that ideal of her former self. Perhaps it's Natalie's experiences in life that makes her cope better with new, unexpected changes in life. That there are some values to getting old. There is a death and there is a birth in L'avenir but Hansen-Løve doesn't treat any of the life's 'big event' so dramatic.

L'avenir is also Hansen-Løve's most technically accomplished work to date. Sun drenched, warm cinematography and always moving camera make a point that whatever life throws at you, it's not as earth shattering as it seems. One of the very best this year.

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