Medusa Deluxe

Medusa Deluxe
Medusa Deluxe
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In the Medusa Deluxe, hair is referred to as a “crown that you never take off.” For one unfortunate hair stylist in this killer-coiffure-comedy. however, it means being scalped to death. This is in response to a request for a slight trim on top that was taken quite literally. It’s an extraordinary debut from Thomas Hardiman; amidst the slew of murders mysteries that have plagued our screens lately, this one stands out defiantly.

Firstly, it isn’t exactly a traditional whodunnit: there is no Poirot-like detective solving the case and the question of who really dunnit is not really where the motivation lies with the killer’s identity telegraphed fairly on. It even opens in medias res, with the murder already in the rear-view mirror. Instead we get embroiled into back-stabbery and gossip are indulged by this film as if we were watching an overblown glamorous soap opera with complex character dynamics.

For such a low-budget British film this is an unusually ambitious and visually striking venture which gleefully embraces its title ‘deluxe’: pure genre, no kitchen sinks here. Every frame starting from Fight Club-style opening sequence has style and flamboyance written all over it. The camerawork by Robbie Ryan (who has worked consistently with Andrea Arnold and Ken Loach among others) is boldly staged as one long take reminiscent of Birdman’s claustrophobic maze-like single-location shots; finding haunting beauty where there should be none backstage dressing rooms at most theatres. The ambition matches up to those vertiginous creations of hairstylists (impressive work from Scarlett O’Connell and Eugene Souleiman respectively), outrageous colorful creations – rainbow wigs or Georgian fontanges – only heightening their sense not being real.

This is singular affair existing purely in its own universe meaning its belligerence against realism takes some getting used to. Hardiman’s script is made up of almost Tarantino-esque dialogue, all long monologues, tall tales, and lightly profound gems. It’s also consistently funny albeit more subtly than laugh-out-loud witticisms with a stringently British flavour (the Little Chef off the A206 gets a shout-out) and at least one dirty shampoo-based insult that deserves to enter the pantheon of superlative slurs.

Moreover, throughout the film there are reminders that this life or death struggle is just a regional hairdressing contest; even petty contests can create cut-throat artistic tensions. Also small scale films like this often feel strained through their own modest resources – how refreshing then for a British debut to take such a huge genre swing while being predominantly focused on working class women of color. “Hair dies the moment it leaves the follicle,” observes Clare Perkins’ stylist Cleve in an exquisite gothic phrase, however, this is not true for Medusa Deluxe: it is alive as well as glossy with texture.

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