Jul 26, 2019
Fridays are always fantastic around here at One Movie Punch, because our good friend Andrew Campbell always brings us another Fantastic Fest feature review. And from the looks of things this week, he’s definitely heading into some fantastic territory. I don’t want to say much about today’s film other than that it comes from the Hungarian film scene, which tends to have more surrealistic films. Don’t believe me? Check out reviews for “On Body and Soul” (Episode #038) and “White God” (Episode #073), then you might see what I mean.
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Take it away, Andrew!
Hello film fans!
Andrew here - back this week with a blast from Fantastic Fest past - we’re going way back to 2015. I put out a call to the Fantastic Fest Fiends, a Facebook fan-group of festival devotees, for something a little different... and they did not let me down. Most films from the festival can be lumped into a few major categories: horror of all kinds, insane action films, twisty thrillers, and the wildly absurd. This particular movie fits that last category to a tee.
Today’s movie is “Liza the Fox-Fairy”, the Hungarian black comedy written and directed by Károly Ujj Mészáros. “Liza the Fox-Fairy” debuted at the 2015 Fantastic Fest earning 2ndPlace in the Audience Award behind Jeremy Saulnier’s “Green Room” (Episode #054). The film centers around Liza (Monika Balsai), a youthful live-in nurse in 1970s Hungary, who is a bit of a shut-in after 12 years of caring for Marta, a widow with an affinity for Japanese culture. When Marta passes away, she gifts Liza her apartment and urges her to get out and make friends for herself lest she grow old alone. Fortunately, Liza has a friend no one else can see: Tomy Tani (David Sakurai), the ghost of a Japanese pop singer. Unfortunately, Tomy does not engage Liza in actual conversation, but he does lurk about creating mischief and busting out lounge music.
Some light spoilers ahead, but hey, it’s a comedy.
As Liza searches for love, Tomy Tani wreaks havoc on every man who lusts after Liza - and there is no shortage. We are treated to a number of whimsical deaths, mostly in Liza’s inherited apartment, where the tape-outlines of fallen suitors begin to mount, throwing suspicion on Liza. The film grows a little repetitive in the middle, but every time Tomy Tani brings on the old song and dance and murder routine - it’s a real delight.
Recurring throughout the film are images of revolting dinners eaten by slovenly men who aren’t afraid to let their bodies show how much their bellies appreciate a good meal. While reading an issue of Cosmopolitan, Liza becomes convinced she will meet the man of her dreams at what I hope is a fictional Hungarian fast food joint with the apt name of Mekk Burger. At home, she treats a widower to a smorgasbord of nasty culinary delights, culminating in an entrée of “carp with syrup” until a fishbone lodges in his throat. The story builds to a satisfying ending as we learn Tomy Tani’s true motive and gain insight into his power.
What makes “Liza the Fox-Fairy” fantastic?Though this film was not my personal cup of tea, it is certainly memorable, and I can see why others enjoyed it greatly. It’s just your run-of-the-mill Hungarian romance told through the lens of Japanese folklore, bookended by a police investigation and held together by a singing phantom.
“Liza the Fox-Fairy” (2015) is a clever bit of escapism, with art direction and set design worthy of Wes Anderson. Fans of “Amelie” who are willing to trade the coquettish cuteness for malevolent mischief will enjoy this film.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 7.6/10
“Liza the Fox-Fairy” (2015) is not rated and is currently
streaming on… Tubi? Joseph, what the heck is Tubi?
JOSEPH: It’s an ad-driven streaming service available on multiple platforms. Like watching afternoon movies on the old syndicated channels, but getting to choose what movie you want from what’s available. Some films have a few ads. Some have quite a lot. But that’s the price of free in the streaming world. Back to you, Andrew!
Next week, we’ll take on a film that just hit Hulu a few weeks ago – “Lords of Chaos”. The film stars Rory Culkin as the lead singer of a Norwegian black metal band in a violent thriller loosely based on the story of the band Mayhem. Sounds like a nice change of pace. I’ll see you then.