Thursday, November 24, 2016

Lucile Hadzihalilovic's follow-up, EVOLUTION, proves another stylish, mysterious provocation

For all those hoping that more brilliant lightning might strike again, after Lucile Hadzihalilovic's earlier amazement, Innocence, I would suggests tamping down those expectations. Her new film, EVOLUTION does not begin to achieve the visual delights coupled to compelling tale that the earlier movie delivered. That said, there is still plenty to enjoy here -- visually, in particular -- if you don't mind some repetition and pacing of the snail variety. As I recall, Innocence ran a couple of hours, while this new film lasts but 81 minutes.

Content-wise, however, the bill remains unfilled. As in her earlier endeavor, Ms Hadzihalilovic, shown at right, takes us to a time and place that exists.... well, we know not where. It could be the future but it might also be some sort of dream or vision. Innocence told a story of a group of young girls and for what they were being groomed. Evolution does the same, but this time with young boys. And it is an even darker vision that the filmmaker presents this time around.

It is also a much less enticing world, in terms of the visuals on offer. Though the film takes place at the seashore, perhaps on an island, once we get inside (we stay there much of the time), the color palette is dark and drab, and although where we are appears to be a kind of  "hospital" located in a tiny village, everything looks about as clean and pristine as a shit pit. Perhaps this village's Health and Welfare budget has been decreed upon by our current Republican Party lawmakers.

The movie, like Innocence, is very spare regarding dialog. There is little of it, but the sense of mystery that hovers over all, together with the creepy visuals, help make up for this lack. Our lead character is a beautiful young boy named Nicolas (played by newcomer Max Brebant, above). In fact this village is peopled only with young boys and adult women: no young girls nor men of any age are ever seen.

What does this mean? And what in hell are the women doing to the boys? The answers slowly become clearer, if not transparent, as "mothers" (such as Julie-Marie Parmentier, above) are shown to be anything but motherly, and only one odd "nurse" (Roxane Duran, below) might possibly turn out to be a figure for good in the life of our little boy.

Evolution proves to be a very dark tale, ugly even. But it achieves its ends via quiet, disturbing images that often raise more questions than they answer. Ms Hadzihalilovic keeps us on track, however, and by the finale we can perhaps find a little hope for our beleaguered protagonist, although even this is rather "iffy," considering all that we still do not know.

What keeps the movie from resonating as strongly as it might is its very slow pace, during which -- for some of the time, at least -- we learn little that is new. Eventually this weighs the film down, especially given its dank, dark interiors and multitudinous nighttime scenes. What keeps it afloat, however, is Hadzihalilovic's fertile imagination and originality. No one that I can think of has made a movie much like either Innocence or Evolution. What's next, I wonder?

From IFC Midnight, Evolution opens this Friday in New York City at the IFC Center.  Elsewhere? Not sure, but as the film will simultaneously appear on VOD, if you want to see it anytime soon, you will surely be able.

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