Jojo Ajisafe

Medusa Deluxe – first-look review

The cutthroat world of hairdressing is the setting for this sparky murder mystery – a debut for Thomas Hardiman.

A comedic one-shot murder mystery surrounding a group of hairdressers at a regional hairdressing competition, Medusa Deluxe is the debut feature by writer/director Thomas Hardiman. Their work comes to a grinding halt after the discovery that the rumoured frontrunner has been scalped and killed – from here the film unfolds into a story of detective work, rivalry, and artistic obsession.

Although foremost a murder mystery, Medusa Deluxe is also the story of the obsessed artist, in a less traditional sense than seen in other films of its nature. Right from the opening scene Cleve (Clare Perkins) is labouring over her “fontange” and perfecting the style in a bid to prove that even amidst the competition’s cancellation, she is the best hairdresser. Even the hairdressing victim was rumoured to have been in his seventh hour of perfecting his hairstyle when he met his death. The artistic obsession surrounding the competition breeds rivalries between those most competitive which adds to the layers of tension and suspicion. Through this Hardiman highlights the beauty and intricacy behind hairdressing and its artistic value which can be made level to other more traditional art forms.

A standout strength of the film comes from the fiery, predominantly female-led cast. The flamboyant storyline is further enhanced by an array of characters with incandescent personalities, the dynamics between characters supplying comedic relief whilst contributing to the suspicion and intrigue of the murder mystery at large. Consequentially the correct execution of these roles is essential in making sure that the film is theatrical without becoming gauche or corny. Nonetheless, the cast was able to perfectly embody their characters with standout performances from Clare Perkins as the spunky hairdresser Cleve and Luke Pasqualino as Angel, the effervescent lover of the murdered hairdresser.

The strength in the film’s casting comes not only from the acting performances but from its diversity. Though the hairstyles were not always a focal point in the film it was enjoyable to see the diversity in hair types included as well as in the hairdressers themselves through the boundary-pushing hairstyles of stylist Eugene Souleiman. Although not the main point of the film, it was an important detail that will not go unnoticed by those of us who have only over the last decade seen the celebration of our hair and diversity in those working on it in mainstream media.

Medusa Deluxe is visually stunning due to the film’s skillful editing and cinematography. The one-shot aspect is achieved successfully through the seamless editing work of Fouad Gaber, with clear-cut camerawork which allowed for smooth transitions between character perspectives throughout. This editing works well to complement the most impressive part of the film which is easily the way it looks due to the cinematography work of Oscar nominated DoP Robbie Ryan. Ryan’s portfolio is nothing short of impressive with films including The Favourite (2018) and Fish Tank (2009), and Medusa Deluxe is no exception. Ryan is able to take a somewhat plain building, where the entire film takes place, and transform it into something equal parts eerie and beautiful.

Medusa Deluxe is a fun and extravagant murder mystery that shines a light on the beauty of hairdressing whilst leaving audiences guessing in this quick-witted whodunit.

Published 20 Oct 2022

Tags: London Film Festival Medusa Deluxe

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