Collider’s FANTASTIC FEST Diary: Day 4 – AGNOSIA, BEDEVILLED, SUMMER WARS

     September 27, 2010

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On Sundays, while some people go to church, the film crazies in Austin, Texas go to the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. For us, there’s really no better way to spend a Sunday than the 4th day of Fantastic Fest 2010. Unfortunately, I only saw three movies on day four because I also had to make a pilgrimage to the football gods but one of them turned out to be my new favorite of the festival. Was it Eugenio Mira’s Agnosia, Jang Cheol-so’s Bedevilled or Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars? Hit the jump to find out.

Easily the hottest film ticket on Sunday was Agnosia, the second film from director Eugenio Mira, who is something of a Fantastic Fest legend. It was so busy that we were forced to sit in the front row for the film, which Tim League introduced himself. Agnosia is set in the late 19th century and focuses on a lens maker and his young daughter who develops a problem with her eyes. Father has created, basically, the world’s first sniper scope and a weapons maker wants to buy the technology. When father refuses to sell though, due to his daughter’s illness, it sets off a pseudo-steampunk version of corporate espionage involving mistaken identity and a very elaborate hoax. That description makes the film sound way more exciting than it actually is, though. In reality, Agnosia is an expertly made film aimed to tell a story of business ethics before the term existed. However, the motivation behind the main plot of the film never feels important enough, and that takes away from what are a series of stellar performances, production design and a haunting score also from director Mira. Agnosia is definitely worth a look but it never truly lives up to its potential.

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As is usually the case at a film festival, the films you just sort of walk into end up being the best things you see. Such was the case with Bedevilled, which made its way onto my schedule out of pure coincidence and ended up being my favorite film of the festival up to this point. It’s about a timid Korean girl who visits old friends on a nearby island that’s without 20th century values and rights. On this island, the men treat women however they want and very few people seem to care. It’s an awful place where terrible things happen to perfectly nice people. That is, until, one of the women finally has enough. What’s so great about Bedevilled is the emotions it elicits. The slow burn of the story and wonderful character development make the audience really feel something for the characters and thereby develop a gut reaction to them. So, by the time the film really kicks in, it’s cathartic and exciting. A violent revenge movie not to forget, Bedevilled does not have US distribution yet. I hope that changes soon.

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My final film of day four was the latest anime from Mamoru Hosoda called Summer Wars. Summer Wars centers around an elaborate social network/second life called Oz, which basically controls the world. When a young boy mistakenly hacks Oz while staying with his “girlfriend’s” huge extended family, everyone must chip in to right the wrong and save the world. It’s an interesting, albeit it hackneyed, commentary on society’s dependence on technology mixed with colorful visuals and memorable characters. The film cuts between several different parallel stories, including the virtual and real worlds, without being too confusing but still lacks the prerequisite anime excitement. It’s well done, entertaining, but a little too narratively coincidental and obvious. Anime fans will certainly enjoy Summer Wars but there isn’t a whole lot to get outside of that.

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