Tuesday, February 7, 2012

PIFF 35 Preview: THE FAIRY

Fans of absurdist humor shouldn't hesitate to rush out to one of the upcoming screenings of The Fairy, the newest comedy from the French acting/directing trio of Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy (L'iceberg, Rumba).  How to begin talking about this one?  It's a film powered by it's own off-kilter logic, beginning with a woman (Gordon) walking into the lobby of a hotel, bluntly declaring herself a fairy and offering the desk clerk (Abel) three wishes.  Odd as that sounds, the truly weird and wonderful thing about that moment (and the majority of what follows) is the wide-eyed acceptance by these characters of everything and anything that the story throws at them.

Take for instance, the romantic underwater dance scene that paves the way for a baby to enter the narrative.  Any other film that might orchestrate as pleasurably surreal a sequence as this would likely have it spring from the dream state of one of its characters.  Not at all the case in The Fairy.  The scene, which comes off as some kind of hybridized love child of the classic output of Buster Keaton and the Fleischer brothers, is played completely straight, as if there is no distinction between the reality of the hotel and the undersea dance palace where Dom and Fiona boogie the night away.

I'd never seen anything by Abel, Gordon and Romy before catching The Fairy (something I've since remedied with a home viewing of L'iceberg).  Their style strikes me as a fresh, revisionist take on farce that regularly slips into extremely amusing displays of whimsy.

There's really no one to whom I wouldn't recommend this film, unless there's someone out there with a grudge against laughter and fun.  It's entirely fine for older kids, although it certainly isn't aimed at a children's audience.  It isn't often that something with the potential to have such a wide demographic appeal plays the art house circuit (the last example I can think of is A Town Called Panic).  Seriously, don't miss it, okay?

The Fairy will screen for the public at Lloyd Mall 6 on Feb. 10th at 8:45pm and Feb. 11th at 3:30pm  A final screening will occur on Feb. 14th at the Lake Twin Cinema at 8:30pm.

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A land dispute turns into a blood feud in Joshua Marston's (Maria Full of Grace) The Forgiveness of Blood.  Playing out somewhat like the Albanian version of Jeff Nichols' Shotgun Stories, the film focuses on the family of a man named Mark (Refet Abazi).  At the fore of the film, we learn that Mark's grandfather used to own a piece of land that has fallen into the hands of another family in the town.  Mark and his son Nik (Tristan Halilaj) experience a run-in with one of the children of the new landowner, an encounter that sets the tone for a later act of violence, placing Nik and his family under an indefinite term of house arrest.

Basically a cinematic piece on conflict resolution in Albanian society, The Forgiveness of Blood somehow never becomes overly didactic.  Instead, we're drawn into an identifiable human dilemma: Nik's desire for freedom from his father's actions and their consequences.  At the same time that Nik is struggling with his role in the dispute, his sister Rudina (Sindi Lacej) is forced to drop her studies and take up the family business, delivering bread and other goods via a horse-drawn cart.

It's fascinating to watch their differing reactions as the siblings are stifled under the constant threat of violent retribution.  The parameters of their liberty may be restricted but Rudina's ingenuity and Nik's youthful defiance color the film with an unexpected optimism tempered with uneasy acceptance.  And, yes, hand-held cinematography in art house films is SO prevalent that it may very well be reaching its breaking point (see this recent NY Times article for Manohla Dargis' take on the ubiquitous shooting strategy), but its use is entirely appropriate here, achieving both the standard aim of "reality" mixed with a tangible feeling of claustrophobia that works well with the subject matter of the film, transporting the viewer to the edge of their seat at multiple points in the story.

The Forgiveness of Blood will screen for the public at Cinemagic on Feb. 10th at 8:30pm and at the Lloyd Mall 5 on Feb. 12th at 5pm.

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