The great thing about the Edinburgh International Film Festival is the chance to stumble upon something that it is a pretty safe bet to say you would never watch otherwise. Surreal Hungarian comedy, Liza, The Fox-Fairy, probably falls into that category. It’s director Károly Ujj Mészáros‘s debut feature and according to the man himself, isn’t much like other Hungarian films.
Liza (Mónika Balsai) is a lonely nurse who spends her days dreaming about finding love. Her only friend is a dead Japanese pop star called Tomy Tani, (David Sakurai) who only she can see. Unfortunately, he is mores sinister than he appears and begins to transform her into a fox fairy, which means that every man who turns their attention her way meets death in unfortunate circumstances.
This is a dark comedy that revels in its own weirdness. Tomy Tani flounces through the movie dressed in a ridiculous blue suit, singing this infuriatingly catchy Japanese pop song and yet plays a major part in several horrible accidents. All the while, Liza is portrayed as an innocent in the centre of this storm, too caught up in her own world to figure out what is going on. Balsai gives the character such a fragile innocence that she is hard not to root for and doesn’t become infuriating in her desperate attempts to find love.
It is a dark comedy that works though, as this is filled with laugh out loud moments. It’s a blend of physical and surreal comedy, which never goes too far off the deep end leaving the audience confused. There are a few comic beats that you feel are probably lost in the English subtitles, but on the whole this film hits a lot more than it misses.
In fact, the whole film feels a bit like a Wes Anderson movie. Meticulously put together and trading on the same kind of irreverent humour that he has made his forte. The alternate Hungary of the 1970s, which the director explained before the film is a capitalist re imagining of the country, feels like it could have come straight out of the world of The Grand Budapest Hotel and the film doesn’t wilt under the weight of such a comparison. It brings to mind Anderson but never imitates and that leaves you with the impression that you have watched something fresh.
Liza, The Fox Fairy is a bizarre film to review. It’s so out there that you really just have to see it for yourself. On one hand a black Hungarian comedy feels about as art house as you are going to get, but the truth is it’s a comedy that would appeal to most. At it’s heart it is a love story and because of that it becomes easy to fall in love with.