New York Film Festival Early Bird Highlights

Things To Come, Graduation, Elle, and I, Daniel Blake.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

John Waters, a big fan of Isabelle Huppert, star of Valley Of Love, Elle and Things To Come
John Waters, a big fan of Isabelle Huppert, star of Valley Of Love, Elle and Things To Come Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Cristian Mungiu's (Beyond The Hills and 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days)Graduation (Bacalaureat) with Adrian Titieni, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Lia Bugnar and Malina Manovici; Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake, starring Dave Johns and Hayley Squires; Isabelle Huppert in Paul Verhoeven's Elle and Mia Hansen-Løve's (Goodbye First Love and Eden) Things To Come (L’Avenir) are four early highlights of the 54th New York Film Festival.

In Elle, shot by Stéphane Fontaine (Jacques Audiard's A Prophet and Rust And Bone written by Thomas Bidegain), Anne Consigny, Laurent Lafitte, Judith Magre, and Charles Berling make up a smashing ensemble cast. Things to Come features Edith Scob, André Marcon, and Roman Kolinka with costumes by Rachèle Raoult (Jalil Lespert's Yves Saint Laurent and Léos Carax's Holy Motors) filmed by Denis Lenoir (Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer's Still Alice). Isabelle Huppert radiates truth in both - fantasy and reality.

Huppert will also star on stage in New York in Phaedra(s), directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski with text composed of excerpts from Sarah Kane's Phaedra’s Love, JM Coetzee’s novel Elizabeth Costello, and writing in collaboration with Wajdi Mouawad at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Harvey Theater during the Next Wave Festival.

Things To Come
Things To Come

Things To Come (L’Avenir)

Mia Hansen-Løve's L'Avenir, wisely titled Things To Come for the English market, stars isabelle Huppert at her subtle best as philosophy teacher Nathalie, whose life is thrown into turmoil. Her mother [Edith Scob], an elegant pest, calls Nathalie with panic attacks at 5:00am, regularly alerts the local fire brigade or buys expensive Barbara Bui jackets in the wrong size. She is lonely and losing it and her daughter knows it. On the professional front, students at the school she is teaching at are on strike in protest and the publishers want to redesign her philosophy textbook for the new edition to "humanise" it with garish colour designs to be better in tune with "market expectations." The mother's cat is too heavy and stubborn to love [tough talk comes easy, though]. The regrettable bouquet of flowers left by her soon to be ex-husband, is too big to fit into the kitchen garbage can. Hansen-Løve remarkably places this unwanted surplus into the world surrounding Nathalie.

Public screenings: Friday, October 14 at 6:00pm - Alice Tully Hall; Saturday, October 15 at 3:00pm - Walter Reade Theater - Expected to attend: Mia Hansen-Løve and Isabelle Huppert

Graduation
Graduation

Graduation (Bacalaureat)

Who throws the first stone in Cristian Mungiu's latest Romanian tale is a mystery - the first of many. Romeo (Adrian Titieni), a doctor in the hospital of a provincial town wishes nothing more urgently than for his daughter Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus) to be awarded a scholarship to Cambridge and leave for "civilised" England. All Eliza has to do, is pass the graduation exams with her usual, excellent grades. One morning during the all-important week, Dad is in a hurry and lets his daughter - whom he drives to school every day - out of the car near a construction site instead of right in front of the entrance. That day, Eliza is assaulted. We are placed in the position of a nosy neighbour who picks up on clues and speculates. The assault, the girl's trauma, the all-important, future-deciding exams starting the next day, and the strained family dynamics are effectively folded into a larger political context of corruption and bribery. Mungiu is such a master of vivisecting human interrelations, that we might almost overlook how he sets the tone.

Public screenings: Tuesday, October 11 at 6:00pm - Alice Tully Hall; Wednesday, October 12 at 9:00pm - Alice Tully Hall - Expected to attend: Cristian Mungiu

Isabelle Huppert and the feline star of Elle: 'The cat was right there in the opening scene and those eyes in close-up might even have been a symbol of Verhoeven watching the scene. He was so well-trained and he did 12 takes perfectly'
Isabelle Huppert and the feline star of Elle: 'The cat was right there in the opening scene and those eyes in close-up might even have been a symbol of Verhoeven watching the scene. He was so well-trained and he did 12 takes perfectly' Photo: Unifrance

Elle

Although Isabelle Huppert's character in Paul Verhoeven's Elle could almost swap clothes with the one she plays in Mia Hansen-Løve's Things To Come, there is no mistaking one for the other. Huppert masters two vastly different approaches to storytelling. The deeply felt portrait of a woman in crisis on the one hand and a mysterious, nonetheless perfectly plausible thriller heroine on the other. Verhoeven moves smoothly from one curious interaction to the next. Step by step we meet her friends, family, neighbors and the employees at the video game production company she owns. The first image we see is that of a cat while we hear sounds of a violent rape. Michèle Leblanc (Huppert) is assaulted by a man in a black body stocking and ski mask in her home. Elle is not a study of victimhood, nor a manual for overcoming trauma, nor a user-friendly revenge fantasy. As all good fairy-tale heroes do, instead of sitting around and explaining, they act.

Public screenings: Friday, October 14 at 9:00pm - Alice Tully Hall; Saturday, October 15 at 3:00pm - Alice Tully Hall - Expected to attend: Paul Verhoeven and Isabelle Huppert

I, Daniel Blake
I, Daniel Blake

I, Daniel Blake

The dialogue in voiceover at the start of Ken Loach's important new film gets the ball rolling in the wrong direction for Daniel Blake (a magnificent Dave Johns), a widowed joiner from Newcastle who lost his job after a heart attack. A "healthcare professional" with the help of a standardised questionnaire decides that he is fit to work, despite the fact that his doctors certify the opposite. This is getting "farther and farther away from the heart," he responds to the ludicrous questions and diagnoses an entire dehumanised British welfare system. During his ensuing trip through hell of bureaucratic procedure to appeal the decision, he meets Katie (Hayley Squires with as powerful a performance as Marion Cotillard's in the Dardenne's Two Days, One Night) a single mother with two small children who is literally struggling to survive. The moments of kindness, warmth, and real help between Daniel, Katie and her children are the heartbreakers of I, Daniel Blake.

Public screenings: Saturday, October 1 at 3:00pm - Alice Tully Hall; Sunday, October 2 at 12:30pm - Walter Reade Theater - Expected to attend: Hayley Squires and screenwriter Paul Laverty

Tickets go on sale to the general public starting on Sunday, September 11.

The 54th New York Film Festival will run from September 30 through October 16.

The Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe production of Phaedra(s) with music by Pawel Mykietyn and Bruno Helstroffer, video design by Denis Guéguin, set and costume design by Maagorzata Szczesniak runs from September 13 through September 18.

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