LIZA THE FOX-FAIRY [Edinburgh Film Festival]

PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Marshall

Liza is a young woman living in 1970s Budapest, and her only friend is Toni, the long-dead ghost of a Japanese pop singer. As Liza begins to search for the kind of wistful romance that pulp novels promise her is out there, Toni becomes jealous and starts orchestrating freak accidents that leave her would-be suitors dead in suspicious circumstances. As the police become increasingly suspicious she is a serial killer, Liza starts to believe she is cursed as a fox-fairy, doomed to bring death to anyone who tries to love her.

Right from Liza the Fox-Fairy’s opening it lets you know exactly what you’re in for. If the sight of a young woman in a nurse’s uniform performing a spontaneous song and dance routine with a man in a mint-green suit draws you in rather than immediately puts you off, it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll enjoy this film. Such is the off-kilter humour that by the time you witness a couple having sex while bouncing on a space hopper it will seem positively ordinary.

The film maintains a sense of the absurd throughout, and has the feel of a cartoon brought to life. The regular deaths are comic but gruesome, shadows of foxes are cast by everyday objects and Liza’s hairstyles, a running joke sees the police chief failing every time he attempts to use an idiom, and the crumbling and colourless apartment building in which Liza lives has a film of brightness cast over it despite the increasing number of corpse outlines taped onto her floor.

With this stonewashed unreality and surreal atmosphere, there’s a slight danger of the film slipping into throwaway (but nevertheless entertaining) ridiculousness, and so it might have were it not for Liza herself, who quite simply is utterly enchanting. While not young enough to be considered naïve, she is instead idealistic, always wanting to believe the best of people and seeing any negativity as misunderstanding rather than malice. We’re frustrated as she fails to realise how completely besotted the police detective Zoltan is with her, concerned when a sleazy womaniser sets his sights on her, and as worried as she is that she will never find the happiness she truly deserves. When the death toll starts to rack up and she genuinely begins to believe herself cursed and unworthy of love (“That woman’s more dangerous than Ebola”), we are pulled into that same despair with her, only to rejoice at every glimmer of hope that things might turn out for the best.

An urban fairy tale of dark whimsy and otherworldly forces impacting mortal lives, Liza the Fox-Fairy feels like the result of what might happen if Wes Anderson directed a romantic comedy written by Guillermo del Toro. For all its dreamlike bizarreness, at its heart it’s a story of hope, and one driven by unfettered optimism in the idea that true love need only be recognised for it to ultimately overcome all obstacles.

INFO: LIZA THE FOX-FAIRY / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: KAROLY UJJ MESZAROS / SCREENPLAY: BALINT HEGEDUS, KAROLY UJJ MESZAROS / STARRING: MONIKE BALSAI, SZABOLCS BEDE FAZEKAS, DAVID SAKURAI, ZOLTAN SCHMIED ANTAL CSERNA / RELEASE DATE: TBC

Expected Rating: 7 out of 10

Actual Rating:
 


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