Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Fairy: Physical Comedy as High Art

A lot of immigrants come to France through the port city of Le Havre, some legally documented, but many more not. Of course, such laws can hardly apply to the Fae like Fiona. She has supposedly come to grant a sad sack hotel night clerk three wishes, but falls in love during the process in the gentle but burst out loud funny comedy fable The Fairy (trailer here), written and directed by the multi-hyphenated Belgian trio of Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romy, opening this Friday in New York.

If Fiona really is a fairy, her magical skills need sharpening. There is no denying her resourcefulness though. When she offers poor put-upon Dom the proverbial three wishes, she actually delivers on the first two. While a third wish does not immediately leap to mind, Fiona assures him he can take his time thinking about it. She is in no hurry to be on her way. Nor is he anxious to see her leave. Unfortunately, just as their idiosyncratic romance blossoms, events intervene. Much like Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre, Dom will find himself tangled up with a group of North African illegals as he attempts to bust Fiona out of the mental ward.

Everyone likens Abel, Gordon and Romy to Jacques Tati and in truth, it is a rather apt comparison. Rubber boned and rubber faced, Abel and Gordon have a flair for dramatic contortions and outrageous situations. While Romy fills a relatively small supporting role in this outing, he has some genuinely inspired bits of business as a nearly blind barkeep.

The Fairy is so consistently inventive and gleefully eccentric, it never feels cute or cloying. Like Kaurismäki’s port city tale, Abel, Gordon, and Romy address contemporary issues with the lightest of touches. Rather than a contemporary polemic, it comes across like a paean to underdogs, whoever they might be.

Despite the Potemkin-esque climax, there is nothing heavy about The Fairy. Bright and airy with a pastel color palette, it is clean and refreshing entertainment. Indeed, the filmmaking trio demonstrates physical comedy can be a form of high art. Warmly recommended, it opens this Friday (2/24) in New York at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center uptown and the Quad Cinema downtown.