Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Oscar for ‘Drive my car’, mesmerizes the Lido with the delicate prodigy ‘Evil does not exist’ (*****)

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The origin of a film matters. It can be a dream, a vision, an idea found, stolen, borrowed, rented… And then there is the process, not always delicate, of transforming the soft into the hard; the infinite possibilities of a project in the almost fatal destination of the irrevocable. The history of cinema is full of epic (and equestrian) stories of creators coming to blows against the will of everyone, including themselves.

However, from time to time, the original idea is seen on the pure screen. In other words, you can see what it was at the beginning, the process that transformed it and everything that could have been and will even be. They are films that mutate every time we sit in front of them, that expand and hurt, but always in a different way. ‘Evil does not exist‘ (Evil does not exist) is one of them. For its mystery, for its clarity, for its plastic silences rather than just expressive ones, and for the internal music that makes it up. It is almost biological organic cinema, incapable of respecting the cold geometry of abstraction. It is carnal, exciting cinema with a strange, almost hypnotic inner vibration.

And maybe, just maybe, the reason for all of the above is where it comes from. The new Japanese movie Ryûsuke Hamaguchi it does not come, so to speak, from the usual places. There was no idea that became a script outline that, in turn and over time, ended up in a perfectly structured script with technical notes in the margins. No. It all started from a collaboration with the musician Eiko Ishibashi, the same one that appears in the credits of his period film (in addition to a brand new Oscar) ‘Drive my car’. The director was called by the composer to devise a set of images that, like him, would dress a score. The result of this work with four hands is called ‘Gift‘ which will be released at the Ghent Festival in October and basically consists of a live performance with the musicians on stage and the images running behind. Like the cinema of before, let’s say.

Well, with the mission accomplished, Hamaguchi wanted to give the project one more spin and complete another film with a mirror soul that expands, renews, sews and unstitches the previous one. This is the one just presented in Venice, ‘Evil does not exist‘. It tells what happens in a town near Tokyo, but in the middle of a beautiful forest. Some entrepreneurs arrive there willing to set up a luxury campsite for the comfort of urbanites subscribed to the ‘packs‘ of experiences. With this start, the director manages to tell a story that speaks of confrontation, but also of loss, and knowledge of the other, and loneliness, and love, and nature, and injured deer, and clear water, and steaming noodles.

The film is presented as a kind of puzzle that describes the life of the village. The wounds of the characters, that there are, are barely pointed out. What is relevant is how Hamaguchi manages to make the viewer participate in the film itself: both in the existence of the protagonists and in the project itself that orders everything. Ishibashi’s music x-rays each shot. And so on until reaching a scene in which the community meets with the businessmen to discuss the damages of the company. So, ‘Evil does not exist’ it rearranges itself to suddenly acquire the form of a drama where one side and the other struggle to find their place. It does not matter so much the conflict almost of ‘western‘ between natives and outsiders as each character’s journey to each of their mistakes, which is also a journey of understanding others. And so.

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