2015 Fantasporto Film Festival’s Grand Prix : „Liza, the Fox-Fairy”, Hungarian Fantasy Film

    The 35th Fantasporto Film Festival (Porto, Portugal) has awarded the Grand Prix in its official competition to the Hungarian film “Liza, the Fox-Fairy” (Liza, a rókatündér) by Károly Ujj Mészáros.

    Developed at the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinéfondation – L’Atelier in 2010, Károly Ujj Mészáros’ debut feature “Liza, the Fox-Fairy” is a peculiar and poignant comedy set in a fictionalized 1970s Hungary under a capitalist system.

    The film had its market debut at the Berlinale’s EFM and its festival premiere took place on March 2nd at Fantasporto Film Festival in Portugal. Following its European premiere the film will screen at the Osaka Asian Film Festival on March 10th and in Argentina at  Pantalla Pinamar later this year.

    “Liza, the Fox-Fairy”

    Recently released in Hungary to much acclaim, “Liza, the Fox-Fairy” is a mix of fantastic film and romantic comedy, revolving around a shy nurse looking for love. Her only companion is a long-dead Japanese pop star who transforms her into a fox-fairy out of jealousy. Consequently, all the men who fall for her seem condemned to death…

    Also pocketing the Best Special Effects Award, the title was initially developed at Cannes’ Cinefondation in 2010, and is co-produced by Hungarian outfits FilmTeam and Origo Film Group.

    Karoly Ujj Mészáros

    Hungarian director Karoly Ujj Mészáros – usually known for his film commercials – has turned his talents to full length features with a story of a Fox-fairy, a character from Japanese folklore; any man who falls in love with one is doomed to die.

    Mészáros’ heroïne is Liza, who cares for the Japanese ambassador’s widow and whose only friend is Tomy Tani, the ghost of a Japanese singer who only Liza herself can see.

    Trailer :

     Liza, a 30-year-old naive, lonely nurse living in „Csudapest”, the capital of a fictionalized 1970s Hungary with a capitalist system. She has taken care of Marta, widow of the former Japanese ambassador, for the last 12 years. On her 30th birthday Liza goes to a Mekk Burger’s to find romance. While she’s away, Marta gets killed by Liza’s imaginary friend, Tomy Tani, the ghost of a Japanese pop singer from the 1950s, resulting in Liza inheriting her apartment. Relatives report Liza to the police for murdering Marta. Sergeant Zoltan is put on the case who gets very nearly killed in the process, and falls slowly in love with Liza. She gains confidence, but all her dating efforts end in fatal accidents orchestrated by Tomy Tani. Liza is convinced that she has become a fox-fairy, a deadly demon from Japanese folklore, who rob men of their lives. The battle for Liza’s life begins between the mysterious pop singer and Sergeant Zoltan.

    Fox-fairies are evil demons from Japanese folklore, who rob men of their lives. Liza, a 30-year-old nurse, goes in search of love, but her ill-fated admirers all die on their first date. Liza has taken care of Marta, widow of the former Japanese ambassador, for the last 12 years. Liza’s only companion is her imaginary friend, Tomy Tani, the ghost of a Japanese pop singer from the 1950s. It’s her birthday, and so Liza goes to a Mekk Burger’s to find romance. While she’s away, Marta dies. Jealous relatives report Liza to the police for murdering Marta to inherit her apartment. Sergeant Zoltan is put on the case.

    The film, premiered on 19th February in Budapest, Hungary, attracted 17.5 thousand viewers in the first week, putting it in fifth spot in the Hungarian box-office. Critics say Liza might even make it big outside of Hungary. The film pays tribute to some of the director’s cinematic influences including Wes Anderson, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Aki Kaurismäki but the blend of styles produces a result that is quite unique. The movie cost 1,4 million euros to make, with half of that coming from the Hungarian National Film Fund.

    Liza, the Fox-Fairy” had its international premiere at the Fantasporto Film Festival held in Porto, Portugal until March 7, where was screening in competition and has just won the Grand Prix at the 35th Fantasporto.

    “Liza, the Fox-Fairy” has a quirky plot that fits in perfectly with the peculiar concept of this project that effectively blends the fantastic, the burlesque and romantic comedy. The titular protagonist is a nurse who has been taking care of Marta, the widow of a former Japanese diplomat, for the last 12 years. Liza is a shy woman whose only companion is an imaginary friend, Tomy Tani, the ghost of a Japanese pop singer from the 1950s, whom only she can see. On the day of her 30th birthday, she decides to go to her favourite fast-food restaurant, hoping to find love – after all, it did happen to the character in her favourite Japanese novel that she reads constantly. During her absence, Tomy Tani kills Marta. And this is just the first in a long list of murders perpetrated against peculiar characters – all of whom are killed out of jealousy, as the ghost intends to keep Liza for himself. Liza obviously becomes the prime suspect in all of the cases, but while Sergeant Zoltan believes in her innocence, Liza steadily becomes convinced that she has been cursed and transformed into a fox-fairy, a deadly demon from Japanese folklore.

    But the plot is far from being the only unpredictable thing about “Liza, the Fox-Fairy” : the film is set in Hungary in the 1970s, but anachronistically, the country already seems to have been invaded by a capitalistic wave of businesses, including fast-food chains and women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan. Most of the characters are extravagant, as are the special effects – which were also acknowledged at Fantasporto.

    However, the film’s greatest achievement is probably its set design, which includes what seems to be a Jean-Pierre Jeunet-inspired type of artistic direction and the inclusion of several ironic set elements that remind us of the brilliance of another Hungarian title, György Pálfi’s “Taxidermia”. At the same time, these western references are blended with Asian ones, with Mészáros’ camera successfully exploring Japanese iconography – everything from folklore to pop songs. Some dream sequences are also set in an imaginary Nasu forest – an opportunity for cinematographer Péter Szatmári to make the most out of the vivid colours of nature.

    An openly commercial title and a brilliant example of genre-blending, “Liza, the Fox-Fairy” was produced by FilmTeam, with the support of the Hungarian National Film Fund, which is also handling its international sales.

    Director : Karoly Ujj-Meszaros

    Cast : Monika Bacsai (Liza, the Fox-Fairy), David Sakurai (Tomy Tani), Piroska Molnar (Marta, the widow of a Japanese Ambassador to Hungary), Szabolcs Bede-Fazekas (Sergeant Zoltan)

    Written by Károly Ujj Mészáros, Bálint Hegedűs

    Based on  stage play „Liselotte És A Május” (And in May Liselotte)  by Zsolt Pozsgai

    Music by  Dániel Csengery (composer: theme music), Ambrus Tövisházi (composer: additional music), Eiko Toda (lyricist: japanese)

    Cinematography  : Péter Szatmári

    Edited : Judit Czakó

    Soundtracks : Aubry Tonisheb, Daniel Geigen

    Producer : Istvan Major

    Distributor : Hungarian National Film Fund

    Production Year : 2014

    Budapest (Hungary)  premiere: February 19th 2015

    International premiere at Fantasporto Film Festival (Portugal), March 2 2015

    Asian premiere at Osaka Film Festival (Japan), March 10 2015

    South-American premiere at Pantalla Pinamar (Argentina), March 11 2015



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