Review: THE FAIRY (La fée) Grants Movie-going Wishes
As with any film of such absurd cockamamie loopiness, there will be those incapable of recognizing it as anything but a singularly focused exercise in oddity. And while it is that, THE FAIRY cannot be dismissed. Yes, it comes at you quirk-a-blazin', never bothering to explain itself, but the characters exist in a place of archetypal splendor, no back-story necessary. Just know that the three stars you see on screen is the very same collective responsible for all of this. Directors/writers/stars Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy do triple duty, and this isn't the first time. This is the same team responsible for 2005's L'ICEBERG and 2008's RUMBA brought us this one. Never heard of those? Me neither, but after seeing THE FAIRY, I am definitely intrigued!
To believe the promotional line, THE FAIRY evokes film comedy titans Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton. That's a fine and valid way of looking at it, if you want to be all highfalutin' about it. But I confess I saw a lot more of PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien", each heavily run through a French filter of off-kilter whimsy. (A filter model stored in the filter box four or five notches down from the one Jeunet and Caro handcrafted years ago with their unapologetically visual French breakthrough fantasies DELICATESSEN and THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN.) One chase scene evoked a "Marmaduke" comic strip, one of thousands in which the Great Dane, sausage links in tow, is chased down the street by the angry butcher. (Oh butcher, when will you learn to dog-proof your meats??)
The characters are merely springboards for the unrelenting quirk, something that is gloriously the singular selling point of THE FAIRY, but also the source of its exhaustion. I'm a fan of unhinged imagination, experimental forms, and sheer wackiness - and for that I thoroughly dig this film, and recommend it highly if you can say the same about yourself. But the movie wore me out all the same.
There's an immediate likability to the THE FAIRY and its brand of Euro-kookiness. Nothing is explained, and logic is not only out the window, the wall housing the window was never built. It's a lot of good natured body-type humor and underdog triumph fantasy, where even the magical fairy (Gordon) who enables the scenarios and propels the plot ("plot" - what a silly word to use here!) is herself a sight to behold - a peculiarly beautiful cross between a well-endowed Shelley Duvall and a carry-over from Wim Wender's PINA. Is she really the wish-granting fairy she claims to be? ("I'll grant you three wishes" - isn't that the line of a genie, not a fairy?) Or does she belong in the mental institution they keep trying to lock her up in?
It's craziness confounded exponentially, a sweet story of a hangdog shlub named Dom (Abel) who one day finds all his dreams come true, albeit in a flurry of arbitrary misadventures. His dismal pre-fairy life as a downtrodden hotel night desk clerk is a frustrated series of malfunctioning bicycle chains and perpetually interrupted sandwich breaks - a demonstration of comedy by inertia, or what Mike Myers refers to as "comedy torture" (repeating a gag to the point of wearing it down to a nub, then continuing it, and continuing it longer, to the point where it can't help but become funny again). No dogs are allowed in the hotel, but dangit, Dom can only bring himself to tell a seemingly upright lodger (Philippe Martz) "no" a single time. The fella's dog-in-a-handbag trick is not only comically transparent; it's a hilariously phony practical visual effect - the sort of stuff the film wallows in.
Forget high cultured Tati and Keaton references (yup, we're there - Tati and Keaton in this day and age can be considered "high culture") or low cultured allusions to cartoons and Conan O' Brien - all specifics are valid, but such sweeping distinctions ("Is it high art or low art?") should be abolished anyhow. The point is, THE FAIRY is a breath of fresh air in the current wave of stateside French-language cinema imports, even if it's a winded breath. It's a special film that is nonetheless eventually compromised by it's own specialness. THE FAIRY leaves viewers neck-deep in comic whimsy and clever quirk; how much is too much entirely depends upon one's own tolerance level. For me, it's a fatigued yet satisfied sensation of a granted cinematic wish come true.
- Jim Tudor