All Classical Radio James Depreist

FilmWatch Weekly: Hamaguchi’s ‘Evil Does Not Exist,’ parental angst in ‘Nowhere Special,’ and masochism à la mode in ‘The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed’

Also this week: Harmony Korine's "Aggro Dr1ft," Ken Loach's "The Old Oak," and "Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes."

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“Evil Does Not Exist.”

Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning Drive My Car is both more and less ambitious than that three-hour exploration of the relationship between a young chauffeur and the theater director she is charged with transporting during his residency in Hiroshima mounting Uncle Vanya. Clocking in at a more traditional 105 minutes, Evil Does Not Exist takes place in an idyllic rural Japanese community that a large corporation has selected as the site for a new glamping facility. (For scale, recall that Hamaguchi’s 2015 film Happy Hour ran over five hours.) He introduces us to Takumi (Hitoshi Omika), who lives in harmony with his natural surroundings, gathering spring water and wild wasabi for the local restaurant while caring for his young daughter Hana (Ryo Nishikawa), whom he frequently forgets to pick up from school.

Into this bucolic setting come two representatives of a company that, using pandemic-era business incentives, wants to construct a luxury recreation site in the area. The longest single section of Evil Does Not Exists depicts a town meeting during which Takumi and others point out to these rather clueless corporate flunkies the problems inherent in their plan: the septic system isn’t capacious enough to handle the facility’s expected peak occupancy, the development will disrupt a deer trail, and so forth. But this isn’t a simple eco-fable pitting capitalism against traditional values. In fact, the representatives are increasingly sympathetic to the villagers’ complaints.

And yet, “progress” is inevitable. Even as Hamaguchi’s camera lingers over the unspoiled beauty of the environs, he refuses to draw strict moral boundaries, per the title. There are, however, costs to be paid regardless of the outcome of this particular endeavor. Violence eventually does present itself, if in unexpected, and especially tragic ways. Hamaguchi, not yet 50, is a consummate filmmaker, fully in command of pace, image, and message. While Evil Does Not Exist may not reach the emotional peaks of Drive My Car, it’s nearly as affecting, philosophical, and intelligent, and a worthy addition to an impressively consistent filmography. (Cinema 21)

The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed: Brooklyn filmmaker Joanna Arnow’s narrative feature debut plays like the love child of Lena Dunham and Todd Solondz, its confrontational autofiction and deadpan nihilism swirling into an experience that’s both off-putting and morbidly compelling. Arnow plays a woman in her thirties who works a mundane corporate day job and endures a masochistic relationship with an older man (Scott Cohen). This mostly consists of her lying around in the nude reveling in his disregard for her pleasure and obeying his absurdly quotidian commands. Having previously made an autobiographical documentary called I Hate Myself and a short film called Bad at Dancing, it seems clear that Arnow is using her cinema to, as they say, work some stuff out. Fortunately, she has a sure and consistent visual style and a knack for bland but evocative dialogue. That’s not quite enough to make up for the exhausting miasma of self-hating narcissism, but it makes her a voice to watch in the future. (Cinema 21)

Nowhere Special: Inspired by a true story, this one could have been a treacly chore. John, the father (James Norton) of three-year-old Michael (Daniel Lamont), after learning he only has months to live, goes through an adoption agency to find a new home for his son, interviewing prospective parents while trying to shield Michael from the inevitable, awful truth. Director Uberto Pasolini (no relation to Pier Paolo but a nephew of Luchino Visconti), who made his name and fortune producing The Full Monty way back when, shows heroic restraint in keeping the film’s emotional temperature within operational limits. He’s aided immensely by his two leads: Norton, mostly known for British TV work, is completely convincing as a man with limited means (he works as a window washer) and some rough edges who remains completely devoted to his son’s well-being. (Without much detail, we learn that mom flew the coop shortly after Michael’s birth.) And Lamont’s performance enters the pantheon of preternaturally poised juvenile performances. It’s a cliché to be sure, but only a parent can fully appreciate the heart-wrenching dilemma of having to explain to such a young person what death is and that it’s going to happen to the person who is almost literally their entire world. The avoidance of melodrama keeps the feels at bay for most of the movie’s running time, but the final moments of Nowhere Special deliver a catharsis that’s all the more powerful for being presented with such understatement. (Living Room Theaters, Salem Cinema)

ALSO OPENING

Aggro Dr1ft: Oh, Harmony Korine, you scamp, you. You rebel. The latest provocation from the auteur behind Kids, Gummo, Spring Breakers, and more is reportedly an immersive, experimental action flick starring Spanish star Jordi Mollà and American rapper Travis Scott. Oh yeah, it was also shot entirely in infrared photography, and Korine’s original intention was to screen it only in non-traditional venues such as strip clubs. So it’s probably true that it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Then again, that’s not always a good thing. (Cinema 21)

The Old Oak: The latest and, according to him, last film from legendary British filmmaker Ken Loach centers on the only pub in a once-prosperous mining town in northern England. When a group of Syrian refugees arrive in town, working-class resentment threatens to create a rift between the locals and the newcomers, but the pub’s proprietor might just be the key to reconciliation and co-existence. (Kiggins)

Sponsor

MYS Oregon to Iberia

Karaoke: When a mysterious young American bachelor moves into their apartment building and starts organizing karaoke nights, a long-married Israeli couple becomes fascinated by his glamourous life and starts to re-examine their own relationship. Winner of six Israeli Academy Awards. (Salem Cinema)

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes: Well, the apes have fully taken over and now they have a planet and a kingdom. (I’m reminded of Roger Ebert’s complaint about the astronomical impossibility of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. They already had a planet, now they have a kingdom? Oooh, look out!) I have no idea which humans are in this, but it looks like an action-packed cartoon with simian shenanigans to spare! (wide release)

Poolman: It’s always exciting when a big movie star decides to take their talents behind the camera as well as in front of it. Well, maybe not always, as the early reviews for this ramshackle effort from newly minted triple-threat Chris Pine demonstrate. Apparently attempting to channel The Big Lebowski, Inherent Vice, and The Long Goodbye, Pine directs and co-writes as well as stars as a layabout pool dude who gets wrapped up in some femme fatale-based shenanigans. I asked the distributor if they’d allow me to watch and review it, but I never heard back. (Regal Fox Tower)

ALSO THIS WEEK

Demon Mineral: The Portland EcoFilm Festival presents this documentary that explores the consequences of uranium mining on the indigenous inhabitants of the American Southwest and the ongoing efforts to repair the damage that has been caused. (Friday, Hollywood)

Revolution Selfie: The Red Battalion: A journalist embeds with Philippine revolutionaries and brings back footage from the front lines of a conflict during which government forces have engaged in extrajudicial killings and other war crimes. Screening is a benefit for the International People’s Tribunal. (Saturday, Clinton St.)

Dope Is Death: In 1973, the Black Panthers and the Young Lords inaugurated the first acupuncture-based detoxification program, targeted at the heroin addiction epidemic plaguing the South Bronx. This documentary revisits that initiative and the challenges posed by reactionary politicians and corporate health care. (Sunday, Hollywood)

Mystic Chords of Memory: This documentary essay explores the unique connection that Welsh people have to their land and history. (Monday, Clinton St.)

Sponsor

Seattle Opera Barber of Seville

Heaven Stood Still: The Incarnations of Willy DeVille: The iconic but enigmatic American roots musician, who found great success in Europe but struggled to find an audience at home, is celebrated in this documentary featuring appearances from Talking Heads’ Chris Frantz (DeVille was a regular during the glory days of CBGB), Ben E. King (he also recorded a notable cover of “Stand By Me”), and others. (Monday, Hollywood)

Walled Off: A hotel that opened in the West Bank in 2019 and that turned out to be an elaborate art provocation by Banksy is the starting point for this documentary that explores the role of creative resistance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Tuesday, Cinema 21)

Pasang: In the Shadow of Everest: Pasang Lhamu Sherpa faced discrimination and other obstacles in her quest to become the first Nepalese woman to climb Mt. Everest, and her inspirational, tragic story is related in this documentary. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Pasang’s brother, who lives in Portland. (Wednesday, Cinema 21)

REVIVALS

Friday

  • Batman & Robin [1997] (Clinton St., with pre-film drag performance)
  • The Evil Dead [1981] (Cinemagic, on 35mm, also Saturday & Wednesday)
  • Grease [1978] (Hollywood, through Wednesday)
  • Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer [1986] (Hollywood, through Monday)
  • Paprika [2007] (Academy, through Thursday)
  • Shadow of a Doubt [1943] (Academy, through Thursday)
  • Singin’ in the Rain [1951] (Kiggins, through Sunday)
  • Trenque Laquen [2022] (5th Avenue Cinemas, through Sunday)
  • The Warriors [1979] (Hollywood, through Wednesday)
  • The Wicker Man [1974] (Academy, through Thursday)

Saturday

  • Army of Darkness [1993] (Cinemagic, on 35mm, also Sunday & Wednesday)
  • Blood Simple [1984] (Hollywood)
  • Chungking Express [1994] (Tomorrow, with pre-show music from The Fourth Wall)
  • Conan the Barbarian [1982] (Clinton St.)
  • Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn [1987] (Cinemagic, also Sunday & Thursday)
  • Gummo [1997] (Hollywood, on 35mm)
  • A Matter of Life and Death [1946] (Cinema 21)
  • RRR [2022] (Hollywood)

Sunday

  • Brave [2012] (Cinemagic)
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once [2022] (Living Room)
  • Mommie Dearest [1981] (Tomorrow)
  • School of the Holy Beast [1974] (Clinton St.)
  • Steel Magnolias [1989] (Tomorrow)

Monday

Sponsor

WESTAF Shoebox Arts

  • Criss Cross [1949] (Kiggins)
  • Evil Dead [2013] (Cinemagic, also Tuesday)
  • Evil Dead Rise [2023] (Cinemagic, also Tuesday)

Tuesday

  • Donkey Skin [1970] (Clinton St.)
  • Ten Brothers of Shaolin [1977] (Hollywood, on 35mm)

Wednesday

  • The Doll [1969] (Clinton St., presented by Church of Film)
  • Juno [2007] (Hollywood)

Thursday

  • Häxan [1922] (Clinton St.)

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Marc Mohan moved to Portland from Wisconsin in 1991, and has been exploring and contributing to the city’s film culture almost ever since, as the manager of the landmark independent video store Trilogy, the owner of Portland’s first DVD-only rental spot, Video Vérité; and as a freelance film critic for The Oregonian for nearly twenty years. Once it became apparent that “newspaper film critic” was no longer a sustainable career option, he pursued a new path, enrolling in the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College in the fall of 2017 and graduating cum laude in 2020 with a specialization in Intellectual Property. He now splits his time between his practice with Vérité Law Company and his continuing efforts to spread the word about great (and not-so-great) movies, which include a weekly column at Oregon ArtsWatch.

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