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“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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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