Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the European Union Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit www.eutorontofilmfest.ca and follow the European Union Film Festival on Twitter at @.
Film discoveries are a pure joy at film festivals. Be sure to check out Liza the Fox-Fairy if you see it in your film festival program, local listings or on demand. Liza (Monika Balsai) is a 30 year-old woman who takes care of an older woman. She’s basically Cinderella without the wicked stepmother and stepsisters. After the old woman dies, Liza has much more freedom to explore the world in search of love. Liza romanticizes fairy tales, especially one involving a woman who found love at a burger joint. Tomy Tani (David Sakurai) is her imaginary friend, a dead Japanese pop singer. Liza and Tomy open the film with a catchy song and dance, the theme songs will certainly stay in your head and get your toes tapping. Little does Liza know that Tomy is the grim reaper, and he curses her, making it extremely difficult to find happiness. Tomy plants the seed to an old Japanese tale about fox-fairies that are beautiful, but doomed to be alone because every man who falls in love with one, also meets his swift demise. Have no fear, all deaths that occur in the film are absolutely hysterical!
Balsai carries this film in a bold, outstanding performance as Liza. Balsai appears in nearly every frame of the film. She’s pretty, charming, sweet and oh so lovable. Balsai is wonderfully innocent and naive throughout the film. She’s desperate to find love, something she’s dreamed of for years. Liza wants to be the woman in the first fairy tale she shares. Liza’s beauty and charm are a curse as the men she meets quickly die. For each death scene the audience is treated to a whimsical death to the tune of Tomy singing and celebrating in the background. There are hints when the audience can expect a death to occur, the anticipation of waiting for a character to die is a wicked delight.
The film is easy to relate to because we’ve all been single, craved mutual love and have felt the frustrations of coming up short. The film works so well because it comes straight from the heart. This film marks the feature-length debut for co-writer and director Karoly Ujj Meszaros. The deeply intimate moments of the film feel genuine. Meszaros takes a slapstick approach to dealing with a highly sensitive issue. Sometimes laughter is the best medicine.
If there are any complaints it’s that the film loses steam transitioning into the final act. Liza the Fox-Fairy gathers a ton of steam in the opening two acts, delivering much laughter and joy. As anticipated it can’t all be fun and games for the entire runtime, that would be exhausting!
There are no specific date references, this appears to take place in the late 60s. The set and costume design are outstanding. The costumes are meticulously planned for each character. One man is a womanizer who wears the tight pants, exaggerated butterfly collars, long sideburns and a sleazy smile to go with it. The rest of the costumes are pristine, colorful and helps the audience ease into this world, making it effortless to suspend your disbelief. As a result, the film is aesthetically pleasing.
Liza the Fox-Fairy is a crowd-pleaser that delivers the gamut of human emotions. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll do a little bit of both at the same time. This is a remarkable achievement for a first time feature length filmmaker. Get in while you can, become the first among your group of cinephiles to see this film, recommend it to others and look like a genius. Whether you’re a film critic or every day film lover, it’s your job to spread the word of smaller films that may get lost in the mix of wide release Hollywood films. We all have that friend who shouts, “Hollywood has run out of ideas!”. Have him or her watch this film and be thoroughly entertained.
Liza the Fox-Fairy is a crowd-pleaser that delivers the gamut of human emotions. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll do a little bit of both at the same time. This is a remarkable achievement for a first time feature length filmmaker.