Liza, The Fox-Fairy (2015)
With this feature directorial debut, which he also co-wrote, Karoly Ujj Meszaros will immediately find himself a divisive figure. Some will love his stylised, quirky imagery complementing a script that moves from the amusingly odd to the downright bizarre within the first few scenes. Others, however, will find it all just a bit too irritating. I was in the former camp.
Monika Balsai plays Liza, a woman who lives in a movie version of 1970s Budapest. She spends her time caring for an elderly woman, dancing around while the ghost of a Japanese pop singer sings to her and, eventually, worrying that she is a fox-fairy, doomed to cause the death of any man who falls in love with her.
I guess your reaction to the movie will depend on whether you’re smiling in a bemused fashion just now or rolling your eyes in disdain. From the very start, Meszaros feels very much like the fun cousin of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. This is Amelie filtered through some Wes Anderson filters, and with much of the romance replaced by surges of lust. Which may be hell for some, but skated close to cinematic heaven for me.
Balsai is a lot of fun in the central role, a happy soul who grows more and more distraught as the bodies of potential suitors start to pile up around her. Szabolcs Bede Fazekas is equally enjoyable, playing the man who views her with a love that he doesn’t act upon. And then we have David Sakurai and Zoltan Schmied as, respectively, that Japanese pop singer and a ladies man who catches Liza’s eye.
The script, by Meszaros and Balint Hegedus, is consistently amusing, even if it’s not always quite as funny as it thinks it is (which, to be fair, may sometimes be due to one or two things being lost in translation). What it does best is set up the absurd world that the main character inhabits. Everything is obviously ridiculous, but the script allows no time or space for doubters. You either go along with it all or you miss out on the fun. Simple.
If you go into this expecting a fun fairytale for adults then you’ll be much less likely to come out disappointed. Because that is, essentially, what it is. Give it a chance whenever you’re willing to try something a bit different. Love or hate it, I think you’ll certainly remember it. Which is more than can be said about so many other movies that you could give your time up for.
Liza, The Fox-Fairy is screening at EIFF 2015 on 25th and 26th June.
DIRECTOR: KAROLY UJJ MESZAROS
WRITER: KAROLY UJJ MESZAROS, BALINT HEGEDUS
STARS: MONIKA BALSAI, SZABOLCS BEDE FAZEKAS, DAVID SAKURAI, ZOLTAN SCHMIED
RUNTIME: 98 MINS APPROX