Until a sweet, whimsical film of absurd situations made its Canadian debut at Cinémania this week, after receiving a bow at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight back in May, this type of film was a rarity.
Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romy form the comedic Belgian trio behind La Fée, the story of Dom, a sufficiently bored hotel night clerk, played by Abel. All Dom would like to do is eat his sandwich in peace and watch Dinah Washington perform “What a Difference a Day Makes,” but he is continuously interrupted.
First, there is an English tourist equipped with a dictionary and a little dog (played by Frenchman Philippe Martz). Then, after his dog is refused access, the same Englishman comes back with… A curiously excited bag, which then goes up the stairs on its own. Later we are introduced to a shoe-less, freckle-faced woman named Fiona, who claims she is a fairy (played by Gordon). As is the tradition with most lovable fairies, Fiona promises to grant Dom three wishes. Taken aback by this unlikely occurance and at a loss for words, he requests a scooter… And free gas for life.
So begins a series of comical bits so ingenious and skillfully executed, that there is really nothing in today’s comedy to compare them to. Every gag in itself could be a successful comic short. Babies, puppies, security guards – all subjects are up for grabs, and then some (there may be a female rugby player singing in Edith Piaff style).
Abel and Gordon, who were present at Cinémania for the première of their film, look a lot like odd characters out of an Astrid Lindgren book – freckled, with strangely small heads and long limbs. A lot of their comedic je ne sais quoi comes from their undeniable chemistry, and their comedy is underlined with honest emotion. La Fée is their third feature (after Iceberg and Rumba). However, the couple started off as stage comedians before creating their own production company, called Courage Mon Amour (Stay strong, my love).
When they met, Gordon was already interested in working in theatre, but Abel was studying economics. “I was a mime on the streets for a long time,” he says.
“Yes, when he would get tired of writing statistics, he would indulge in that,” adds Gordon.
So began their endeavors in theatre, and pretty soon they were putting their own shows on stage. They’re also a couple on and off the screen (or stage). “After we started working together, we fell in love,” says Gordon with a smile. The audience, right on cue, gives a long “Awwww!”
Abel and Gordon star, write, and produce their productions. “We always said we didn’t want any stars in our movies,” says Gordon at the film screening of La Fée at Cinéma Imperial. They say they’d like to continue their cinematic work, with their co-director and friend, Bruno Romy (who plays the myopic waiter at a pub conveniently named L’Amour Flou or Love is Blurred).
La Fée is a comedy in the same vein as the works of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Jacques Tati, which Abel and Gordon admit are their biggest inspirations. The reason La Fée is so naturally comparable to silent comedies is that there are so many physical gags, plays on appearance and, especially, dance. The film reminds us just how much humor there is in the physical expressions of a human being: a stoned expressionless look, à la Buster Keaton, or the polite face of an English tourist who pretends he understands what a Belgian is telling him but has no clue. For example, choking on the cap of a ketchup bottle will always be funny, despite the suffocation hazard. There are also a few dance routines, one reminiscent of the “Under the Sea” number from The Little Mermaid. Of course, it too takes place at the bottom of the sea.
The existence of the fairy alone makes the movie magical, but this fairy is also extremely grounded. At one point, she needs shoes, but she doesn’t use a little wand to make them appear on her feet. She steals them instead. In this way, La Fée is a fairytale (pun intended) for adults and kids alike. It is deeply rooted in the absurd world of tales, while remaining and rejoicing in the physical world.
La Fée will make you fall in love with comedy again. So next time you see a fairy, keep in mind this little delight of a tale, and make sure your third wish doesn’t go to waste.
By Radina Papuchieva
Follow me on twitter @Papukchieva