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In their third feature, gifted physical comedians Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel and Bruno Romy gracefully build on their distinctive brand of bur- lesque humour. They have also been building an audience base, and The Fairy (La Fée) — which opened Directors’ Fortnight — is unlikely to buck that trend with its Chaplin-esque interludes set in an off-kilter, colour-drenched Le Havre. Theirs is an old-fashioned, almost silent, rou-

tine (their first feature, L’Iceberg, was virtually wordless) blended beautifully with an arresting dance element. With their angular, exaggerated features, Brussels-based Gordon, Abel and Romy are akin to a circus clown troupe, vaudevillians who sprinkle the big screen with their art and unique aesthetic. The Fairy is not for everyone, but most people who try it should like it. As with 2008’s Rumba, Gordon and Abel play

Fiona and Dom. This time, they have not yet met. He is a night porter at a run-down hotel; she is a self-proclaimed fairy in a dirty tracksuit, who res- cues him from choking on a ketchup top in some particularly broad comic scenes. An Englishman (Martz) also checks into the same hotel with a dog hidden in his bag. The Fairy soon ups the ante, with Fiona steal-

ing some clothes and shoes from local shops for her date with Dom; the first of the film’s many amusing fixed-camera chases with the police


Fr-Belg. 2011. 94mins Director/screenplay Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, Bruno Romy Production companies MK2, Courage Mon Amour International sales MK2, Producers Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, Nathanael Karmitz, Charles Gillibert Executive producer Marina Festré Cinematography Claire Childeric Production designer Nicolas Girault Editor Sandrine Deegen Main cast Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, Bruno Romy, Anais Lemarchand, Philippe Martz

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ensues. Eventually they meet at the ‘Love Is Blurred’ bar, where they encounter its almost- blind manager (Romy). They fall in love, of course, in a dance sequence set underwater; the effects are worthy of a bathtub but the perform- ance itself is mesmerising. By this time, the audience is completely on-

side, and when Fiona becomes pregnant their antics scale up a notch further, culminating in a sequence worthy of the best of Tati or Keaton — with a bar full of female rugby players and a mad dash after a baby stuck on the bonnet of a car

which is being driven by a blind man with three illegal aliens in the boot. Only in Le Havre. Rumba notched up more than 100,000 admis-

sions in France and sold to the US (Koch Lorber). Now opening Directors’ Fortnight, Gordon, Abel and Romy have slightly widened their scope, yet retained the unique elements which make them so special. While Dinah Washington’s What A Differ- ence A Day Makes studs the piece, a particularly memorable moment comes when one of the Les Dieselles rugby players (Lemarchand) performs a knockout version of the Kurt Weill song Youkali.


All is not well in the neighbourhood grocery game in this four-hander Brazilian curio. Coming over at first as an employment and family relationship drama in the mould of Laurent Cantet’s Time Out (2001), the film gradually shifts into horror-tinged territory. The pressures of the work market in today’s recessionary times creates monsters of us all, the young writer-directors seem to be saying — but the audience is left free to extract other messages, or none at all, from the film’s dabble with the dark side.

Perceptive emotionally, refreshing in its lack of

self-importance, sometimes amusing, and just occasionally scary, the film nevertheless does not quite add up as a genre-bending exercise — it ends with a yell from its male protagonist, but more of a shrug from the audience. Despite its horror-thriller forays, Hard Labour

(Trabalhar Cansa) is one for the arthouse rather than the genre fanboys, who will find its frights far too tame. The well-constructed story is full of par- allels and ironic mirrors, but simply less absorb- ing, less urgent than those contemporary benchmarks of reality-grounded supernatural art- house films, Let The Right One In and The Host. Limited arthouse action and some speciality TV slots look to be Hard Labour’s workaday destiny.

n 20 Screen International at the Cannes Film Festival May 14, 2011

Bra. 2011. 99mins Director/screenplay Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra Production company Dezenove Som e Imagens International sales Urban Distribution International, www. Producers Maria Ionescu, Sara Silveira Cinematography Matheus Rocha Production designer Fernando Zuccolotto Editor Caetano Gotardo Main cast Helena Albergaria, Marat Descartes, Naloana Lima, Marina Flores, Lilian Blanc, Gilda Nomacce

Middle-manager Ottavio (Descartes) is fired

from his job of 10 years on the very day when his can-do wife Helena (Albergaria) signs the lease on an empty shop which she plans to turn into a gro- cery store. Despite the setback, and against her husband’s advice, she decides to go ahead with the venture. To help clean the house and look after the couple’s daughter, Vanessa (Flores), Helena hires a maid, Paula (Lima), paying her under the table to avoid employment tax. Paula has the sort of sullen manner which sug-

gests a lurking threat, but the script surprises us here, with the jeopardy coming from another direction — the store itself, which had mysterious previous owners nobody wants to talk about. A sledgehammer and chain are found behind a dis- play case, and a mechanical Santa falls apart and leaks black oil. Meanwhile, Ottavio is struggling to get back into the job market, attending interviews which expect him to roleplay with other candi- dates, and being told by an employment adviser that he should sign up for a motivational seminar. Our sympathies are played with inventively

through the script’s layered and nuanced employ- ment waltz, with Helena becoming an increas- ingly imperious boss, Ottavio losing his self-respect, Paula growing into hers, and even lit- tle Vanessa acting in a school play about the end of slavery in Brazil (one of several ironic lobs which are left up for the audience to hit over the net). The look of the film is distinctive, though not

always consistently so, with bright theatrical light- ing and make-up, and deliberate, sometimes pon- derous dialogue creating a hyper-real tone. There is a low-budget look about the special-effect props, when we finally get to them, but the film is kept on track by the cast’s grounded performances — especially Albergaria as Helena.

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