Leeds Film Festival 2009 - Day 17

My final 3 films are all anime.

Angels Egg
(Jpn) (wiki)

This early film by Mamoru Oshii, writer of Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell, is almost unheard of outside Japan, and having the chance to see it is a rarity. Made with the artistic modelling of Final Fantasy's Yoshitaka Amano, it is an experimental, almost surreal piece about a young girl, clad in rags but face and hair powder white, who leaves her refuge every day to walk through the decayed, dead city nearby. She scavenges for food and bottles in the abandoned houses, and carries with her a large and mysterious egg. One day, she meets a man, seemingly arrived as part of a passing military unit. He has a strange cross-shaped weapon over his shoulder and bandages on his hands. After gaining the girls' trust, they move together through the cold and empty streets, and return to her sanctuary.

Angel's Egg is one of those films where you shouldn't so much attempt to extract a story, more interpret your own from the symbolism on display and your own life experience. As Oshii stated, even he doesn't know what it's about. The film has deliberately sparse dialogue, relying instead on small movements and actions to convey what the characters are thinking. It has moments of beauty and heartbreak, but always remains a mystery. 7/10

Summer Wars (Jpn) (wiki)

In a possible depiction of what life will be like a decade or so from now, Summer Wars imagines a logical extension of the online communities we have today. Beginning with simple bulletin boards and chat rooms, these have become increasingly graphical as the technology becomes able to keep up, to the current cutting-edge social networking of Second Life. In the world of Summer Wars, this has progressed to the point where a single, giant on-line community called Oz has billions of users. Presented as a perfect utopia, people can chat, date, buy things, advertise their wares, and just about everything else. It becomes so popular that companies rent land space on it; governments set up virtual headquarters on it. Being worldwide, automatic translations allow everyone to communicate seamlessly. It can be accessed on your phone, computer or games console. In short, Oz becomes an extension of the lives of just about everyone on the planet.

Rather than depicting the world as a disconnected place full of fat, spotty drones attached to their computers all day, Summer Wars presents it in a much more positive way, Oz being a natural extension of the Internet to allow everyone to come together and all things be equal. Outside the game, they get on pretty much as normal. This in itself is a refreshing change to the usual portrayal of technology's impact on society.

Into this story comes mathematical genius Kenji, a young man on the crest of his hormonal wave who ropes himself into the job of pretending to be the boyfriend of the class beauty Natsuki, while he escorts her to her extended family's birthday celebrations for her 90 year old grandmother. Natsuki's family is a proud one and she wants to ensure that granny sees her happy with a boyfriend before she kicks the bucket. While there however, Kenji is duped into solving a maths puzzle sent to him anonymously by phone, and the next day, all hell has broke loose in Oz - turns out, he just cracked the password to the admin account for someone.

It takes little imagination to guess that Kenji and Natsuke end up together by the end, but the journey there is what counts. It's inventive story moves quickly when required but doesn't rush through the times when a more delicate moment comes along. What you get is a fresh blast of beautiful artwork, high-quality animation and an entertaining storyline about family, relationships and legacy wrapped in a semi-science-fiction glove, and I really enjoyed it. 8/10

No films tomorrow. There is only a re-screening of Departures (a very good film, I heartily recommend it if you can catch it anywhere) so I am taking a well-earned break. Then, it's my 10k Leeds Abbey Dash (I'm running for Help The Aged again) and finally, the Japanese sub of Miyazaki's latest, Ponyo.

Film Count: 153/150

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