DID YOU READ

“Agnosia,” Reviewed

“Agnosia,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at Fantastic Fest 2010.

“Agnosia,” like “Julia’s Eyes,” which screens at the festival today, is the product of a Guillermo del Toro protege — Eugenio Mira, whose first film, 2004’s “The Birthday,” caught the director/producer/force of nature’s attention, if few others’. And it looks like it — working off a screenplay by “The Devil’s Backbone” writer Antonio Trashorras, Mira adeptly assembles lush, gothic visuals of the type that have become del Toro’s signature. If only the film had the same amount of emotional impact. “Agnosia” is certainly the most lavishly beautiful film at Fantastic Fest, but it’s structured around a story that doesn’t seem to have enough to it to support a feature, either in what’s at stake or in the characters.

The film starts with a group of investors arriving in the countryside to try out a new telescopic rifle, the joint product of German weapon manufacturer Holbein (led by an efficiently sinister Martina Gedeck) and Spanish lensmaker Artur Prats (Sergi Mateu), who’s named his line after his young daughter, Joana. Just as the demonstration takes a turn toward the troubling, with the attendees demonstrating they shouldn’t be given access to better arms, Joana collapses. We skip forward a few years, to where Joana is grown woman (played by Bárbara Goenaga) now suffering from the titular disorder — a bout of childhood encephalitis has left her unable to distinguish voices and faces. Everyone in the manor has to wear colored ribbons so that Joana can determine who’s a servant, who’s her doctor, Meissner (Jack Taylor) and who’s her fiancé, her father’s right hand man Carles (Eduardo Noriega).

“Agnosia” takes on the form of a turn-of-the-century fairy tale, with Joana as the porcelain princess locked away in her castle, waiting for the right prince. Carles genuinely loves her, but is too closed-off to express his feelings. Vicent (Félix Gómez), who’s hired to infiltrate the house and, eventually, pretend to be Carles in order to lure a company secret from her, wins his way into her confidence by confessing to the adoration the man he’s posing as has never shared — though he, naturally, begins to develop feelings of his own for Joana. As the scheme creaks along, I kept waiting for the additional twist that would reveal what the movie was really about. That twist never arrived. One or two scenes hint at a supernatural thread that doesn’t come through — the film is, ultimately, a melodrama about historical industrial espionage, focused on a scheme that seems ludicrously complicated for the potential payoff.

But the real problem is Joana, an extreme version of your standard saintly blind character with additional sensory handicaps. Pretty, delicate and in her very existence desperately needy, she’s not a terribly charismatic or sympathetic center for the film — vulnerability seems her primary appeal and the biggest draw for the two men in her life. “Agnosia” sometimes tries to show things from her point of view, but the best it can manage is a funhouse mirror effect and vocal distortion that don’t give a good sense of how disorienting her disorder can be. Because of that, her Victorian-style hysterical attacks, caused by, say, a towel falling off a bar when she’s along in the bathtub, seem ridiculous rather than suspenseful. Her fate, confined to room swathed in black material to minimalize the stress of too much outside stimulation, isn’t one in which it’s easy, or perhaps even possible, to be invested.

“Agnosia” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.