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though Nicolas has probably never seen Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner, he can tell there is something wrong with his island village.
It is just too picturesque. The demographics are also wrong. There are no men
and no girls—just single mothers and their pale young sons. He will start to
suspect something is seriously wrong in Lucile Hadžihalilović’s Evolution (trailer here), which opens
today in New York.
rather disturbs Nicolas when he spies what looks like the corpse of a dead
little boy with a bloody starfish on his chest while diving, but his mother
dismisses it as a trick of the light. Naturally, the other kids are quick to
mock him, but it awakens inklings of suppressed memories and a growing sense of
paranoia within the sensitive lad. When he follows his mother one night, he gets
an eyeful of some very cult-like behavior. Not long after, he is admitted to
hospital, ostensibly to treat the chronic condition he was supposedly born with,
but by this time Nicolas doubts everything he is told.
Evolution represents the most
demanding, high end of the genre movie spectrum. Superficially, it might sound
like it shares a kinship with movies like Village
of the Damned, but films like Picnic
at Hanging Rock and the work of Jodorowsky are closer cousins. It is all
about visuals and atmosphere, rather than thrills and chills. At this point, it
might also be helpful to point out Hadžihalilović has collaborated with New French
Extremity filmmaker Gaspar Noé. Neither is excessively prolific, but when they
do make films, they get somebody’s money’s worth.
is no question Evolution looks terrific.
Cinematographer Manuel Dacosse (whose work includes Alleluia and The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun) definitely got the memo regarding Hadžihalilović’s
inspiration from surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico. He just soaks up the
black volcanic sand and stark white stucco buildings. The Lanzarote locales are
just stunning, but the darkly sinister film is not likely to inspire a sudden
crush of tourism.
narrative and character development already taking a backseat to the unsettling
vibe, the ultra-reserved cast are largely overwhelmed by Hadžihalilović’s
auteurist filmmaking. Despite being the focal point, Max Brebant’s Nicolas
practically evaporates into the scenery, just like the rest of the young
supporting players. Julie-Marie Parmentier makes a somewhat stronger impression
as the creepily oedipal mother (but just whose mother, we cannot say for sure).
At just over eighty-minutes, Evolution is a relative shorty, but it
is such a mood piece, it probably would have been more effective if it were
even more concise and compact. It is a dramatic departure from the films
typically released under the IFC Midnight banner, but Hadžihalilović’s
aesthetic is apparently too tripped out for the general IFC and Sundance
Selects imprimaturs. The careful craft that went into the film is impressive, but
it will make traditional midnight movie audiences antsy. Respectfully recommended
for cineastes with a taste for body horror, Evolution
opens today (11/25) in New York, at the IFC Center (with screenings
throughout the day).
Labels: French Cinema, Lucile Hadzihalilovic