Home Video Hovel- The Fairy, by David Bax
One possible downside to the advent of sound in movies may be the effect it had on comedy. Of course, most of the funniest movies ever made include sound and the technology has rightfully become indispensable. Still, it seems that comedy in movies now is, in broad terms, over-reliant on the words. Visual comedy is hardly considered and often seems old-fashioned. There will always be some who endeavor to keep it relevant (the ZAZ’s, Pythons and Edgar Wrights of the world) but we almost never see it as the dominant delivery method for laughs anymore. The Artist had to go fully silent in order to make it palatable. Belgium’s The Fairy, from directing team Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy, doesn’t go quite that far but it does winningly embrace a specifically cinematic mode of visual comedy.
Abel plays a hotel clerk named Dom. One evening, a very strange woman (Gordon) comes in and asks for a room. She also insists that she’s a fairy and will grant him three wishes. He gets his first two almost immediately but holds onto his third not because he wants to make it last but because he simply can’t think of anything beyond having a scooter and a lifetime supply of gas for it. The fact that Fiona (both the actress’s and the character’s name) is a fairy becomes drastically less important to the plot at this point, with the exception of things such as the couple being able to dance on the bottom of the sea. The thrust of the story is a charming and classical romance between Dom and Fiona.
Abel and Gordon started out together as a burlesque-type stage act before joining forces with Romy, an experienced short-subject filmmaker, in the early and mid-90’s to produce a number of shorts. The trio finally moved into feature films with 2005’s Iceberg. The Fairy is their third collaboration, following 2008’s Rumba. The two different experiences (stage and film) are present in their work and complement one another wonderfully. Often, the shots chosen are perfectly composed on their own while also working as a proscenium under which the performers act out the scene.
There is a wide spectrum of physical comedy attempted and executed in The Fairy. From huge set-pieces like a car and bicycle case or a daring fire escape sequence to little moments like Abel repeatedly almost being able to take a bite of his sandwich before being interrupted, each bit is perfectly pitched and calibrated. The ebb and flow between macro and micro creates a pleasant but increasing pace toward the climax.
More than just clever frippery, The Fairy rather lyrically addresses larger issues of the human spirit. Any film as seemingly light as this one that also includes poor immigrants seeking a better life in England clearly has something on its mind. Whether it be those seeking a better life or the vacationing Brit or Dom’s inability to name his third request, all of the characters are striving toward some ideal. Perhaps, the film suggests, having wishes is more nourishing to the soul than having them come true.