(Estonia, 72 min.)
Dir. Mait Laas, Writ. Kati Kovacs, Peep Pedmanson
Starring: Omar Nomm, Iris Vesik, Risto Joost, Peeter Volkonski
Beans enjoy a reputation for being the musical fruit, but it turns out that lemons and oranges have the best harmony of all. Beans aren't really fruit, though--they're more of a legume--so nothing really has a toot on fruit's ability to carry a time in Lisa Limone and Marco Orange: A Rapid Love Story. This cracked-out musical, which opened the feature competition last night at the 2014 Ottawa International Animation Festival, is a fruity hoot. Lisa Limone, totally strange and stylistically absurd, is a fun and fantastical fusion of marmalade and migration. Excuse the alliterations, but Lisa Limone made me do it.
Lisa Limone rightly has the claim to being the best Estonian animated citrus opera ever made, but it’s also probably the only Estonian animated citrus opera ever made. It has an element of novelty that just can’t be beat. The film pulls back the current in wacky framing device—the whole film’s a show presented by some bizarre tomato-thing—that presents the love story of Lisa Limone and Maroc Orange as an epic tragedy on the theatrical stage before the curtains rise and invite the viewer into the world of the film. It’s an absurdist lark, Lisa Limone, as director Mait Laas and his team of animators bring to life an imaginative world of fruits battling the elements of nature and plantation politics.
Maroc Orange (Omar Nomm) lands in Lisa Limone-land when the boat carrying him and his fellow ex-pat oranges meets a grisly battle with a shark at sea. This zany sequence envisions the plight of boat people on a one-of-a-kind stage—the sea resembles one of those big parachutes kids use for playing cat and mouse in gym class—as the shark brings the boat to a halt before destroying it and scattering the people. The song Maroc sings during the attack sets up an expected political dimension to the opera as he tells of his journey to a new homeland. Maroc, sad to leave home but excited to explore new terrain, is in for a bitter taste of freedom.
Cue the lemon. Lisa (Iris Vesik) is a poor little rich girl singing to sea shells by the sea shore when she stumbles upon the bloated carcasses of the oranges who didn’t survive the shark attack. She screams, Maroc runs, and he winds up in a ketchup factory no sooner than one can say “duck, duck, goose.” It all happens very fast, but that’s why they call it a rapid love story.
Lisa Limone really doesn’t make any sense as it flips from tragic love story to allegorical exposé on the plight of migrant workers and displaced persons as they dream of opportunities elsewhere but only find misery and exploitation. Lisa’s dad (Peeter Volkonski) is an unruly ketchup-baron of the lord-and-vassal variety who rules the ketchup plantation like he’s Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave. Fassy doesn’t carry a tune, though, and Lord Lemon sings some ditties to keep the aspiring oranges and tomatoes in check. The film culminates into a veritable food fight as the fruits rage an uprising and love blossoms. Lisa Limone tells the story like a call-and-response pattern between the chorus of oranges and the one mopey lemon as they find the right chord for all to sing.
Lisa Limone, however, really doesn’t need the tacked-on documentary footage about a real-life incident about Tunisian migrant workers to make the political flavours of the story extra potent. The songs and absurdity of the film make everything pretty clear. The film plays out like an eccentric Bollywood musical done by Brecht and a fruit basket as the lovers meet halfway coming from divergent parts of the food chain. The fantastical animation makes Lisa Limone consistently watchable even if the script seems all over the place, for the muted palette of the film complements the sombre political cues and helps put the love story in a secondary role (for the better). The fusion of human elements onto the fruit figures makes this oddball opera a unique visual feast.
Rating: ★★★ (out of ★★★★★)
Rating: ★★★ (out of ★★★★★)
Lisa Limone and Maroc Orange: A Rapid Love Story screens again on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 5:00 pm.
Please visit www.animationfestival.ca for more information on this year’s festival.