Lea Seydoux is typically excellent as Gabrielle, partnered here with George MacKay as Louis. They play what TIFF describes as “star-crossed lovers,” seen at various points in history as a Gabrielle in the future undergoes a process that is designed to eliminate hampering emotions still lingering from past lives. So Gabrielle revisits past versions of herself that encountered Louis, both as an aristocrat in 1904 France and an incel in 2014 Los Angeles, while also navigating a future in which she meets this fated partner yet again, questioning what the “purification” of all the things that make us human could do to their relationship.
Clearly, there’s a lot to unpack here, and Bonello never lacks in confidence. He moves back and forth in time, working in more of an emotional register than a literal one, but there are times when “The Beast” feels a little too self-aware of the games it’s playing. Of course, no one expects a film with this ambitious of a structure to be realism, but Bonello gets overly precious with his time jumps and editing tricks. The movie actually works the best in its one-on-one beats as Seydoux and MacKay find a balance between attraction and anxiety that really drives the film. They understand people who are drawn to each other, uncertain if it’s passion or pain that underlies their connection.
The great Ryûsuke Hamaguchi returned to TIFF this year just two years after “Drive My Car” with his slow burn “Evil Does Not Exist,” a film that started as a short accompaniment to a musical piece by the phenomenal composer Eiko Ishibashi but was then expanded to a full feature. Its modest origins can still be felt in a drama that left me a bit more wanting than some of his work, but this is also an undeniably well-made film with an ending that I’ve already discussed in fascinating ways.
Takumi lives in a remote region of Japan with his daughter Hana. They have a simple life, as seen in long scenes in which Takumi chops wood and collects water for a nearby restaurant. Their serenity is threatened by a new business project in the area that will bring “glamping” (glamorous camping) to the region, which is pitched as a positive for the community until a phenomenal scene in which the agents for the company are confronted by the many things they haven’t considered like septic run-off and fire hazards. Two agents from the company get involved in Takumi’s life, even asking him to be the caretaker for the incoming tourists, as Hamaguchi slowly drags us to a shocking ending that feels like a warning over what can happen when people play tourist in other people’s lives.