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FairyTale: A True Story Movie Review

fairies keitel look elsie

It's hard to imagine that there are two more adorable little actresses than Florence Hoath and Elizabeth Earl as Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two delightful amateur photographers who may or may not have captured real fairies on film. The filmmakers of FairyTale: A True Story more or less take the account at face value, showing contradictory evidence but preserving the pure enchantment of childhood when, for many kids, believing in fairies is absolutely essential! FairyTale takes place in 1917 when a generation of young men faced death everyday during what was then known as The Great War. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, then 58 and the grieving father of a lost son, launched an investigation into psychic phenomena in order to comfort himself. After he learned of the fairies of Elsie and Frances, he wrote about them in The Coming of the Fairies. Although Doyle tried to conceal their identities, the investigative reporters of the day were just as diligent then as they are now, and the subsequent press attention brought the two girls much unwanted notoriety. FairyTale is charming and true when it focuses on Elsie and Frances and the beautiful surroundings in which they live. The introduction of computer animation for several of the fairy sequences is, unhappily, an imperfect artistic solution. Fairies are only magic when they're real and computer animation is too precise to look real. Shadows, soft focus, any elegant subterfuge would have eliminated the clash of 1997 technical wizardry grafted on an 80-year-old tale. Peter O'Toole at 65 doesn't much resemble the well-fed Doyle, and his eyes look like they're trying to escape from a face and frame that reveal every second of a wild Irish life. Harvey Keitel, 58, is 15 years older than his Harry Houdini character was at that point in that career. But, as anyone who has fidgeted through 1922's The Man from Beyond knows, Houdini had zero cinematic charisma and Keitel has plenty to spare. For the most part, FairyTale: A True Story has the look and feel of another era, but Misses Hoath and Earl breathe fresh life into that era and give it a very special meaning for contemporary audiences. AKA: Illumination.

1997 (PG) 99m/C Harvey Keitel, Peter O'Toole, Florence Hoath, Elizabeth Earl, Paul McGann, Phoebe Nicholls, Bill Nighy, Bob Peck, Tim McInnery; Cameos: Mel Gibson; D: Charles Sturridge; W: Ernie Contreras; C: Michael Coulter; M: Zbigniew Preisner. VHS, Closed Caption

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