Medusa Deluxe

Medusa Deluxe
Medusa Deluxe
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Forget Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot, throw away everything you know about murder mysteries. The recent revival of the genre does not apply to Medusa Deluxe. A24’s favorite indie distributors are behind this new film that was written and directed by Thomas Hardiman with themes that explore entitlement, hair (of course) and community, and shot as if it were a 90-minute single take plus credits.

The body has already been found scalped before the action starts in England during competitive hairdressing scenes – cutting out the usual first act of a whodunit. This is followed by the expected collapse as fellow competitors, their models, and other event personnel scramble to make sense of what has just happened.

All actors who appear onscreen — be they unknowns like Heider Ali, Kae Alexander or Kayla Meikle or familiar figures such as Eastenders‘ Clare Perkins and Skins’ Luke Pasqualino — manage to hide themselves completely in their roles. The tone is well-balanced between humor and suspense that helps keep fast pace of story moving. From an animated opening to the closing dance number, all these show how well thought out this project is because it never takes any obvious or easy path. This one-take drama is an enthralling journey that brings murder mystery into new territories.

Medusa Deluxe takes its departure from many traditional murder mystery conventions but does so in a way that pays homage to them rather than making ironic winking moments at earlier works which seems cool. For instance, these characters still find themselves in situations that we are all familiar with: stuck inside a building together waiting for the police while old grudges fester and erupting into physical violence. However, instead of having an intelligent detective interrogate everyone so he can force them to speak, sometimes great detectives may have flaws.

The difference lies in removing the police from the story altogether; thereby shifting focus from the detective character to the characters themselves who now have to extract information from each other. This aspect amplifies the interpersonal tensions observed since who suspects whom says much about their entanglement in each other’s lives, the competition scene and the crime itself.

Thus Medusa Deluxe shows a clear comprehension of the genre but sharply veers off from what is considered one of its most important elements. The conventional detective is absent here which not only creates an interesting dialogue with the genre, but also fits for both setting and characters involved. Most of these characters are working-class women of color – Divine has mentioned something about getting more work at the morgue to pay off bills – who openly distrust law enforcement. So as a result they wouldn’t talk to some police officer they don’t know and instinctively despise (if they didn’t instead discuss among themselves)

In a genre like this that is often exaggerated or overplayed, details such as these are necessary to anchor the film in reality; otherwise it would be impossible for us to connect with any of the characters. Some parts of the recent wave of crime thrillers have focused on absurdity and theatrics at the expense of endearing personalities beyond their comic value like those witnessed in See How They Run last year.

Contrary, Medusa Deluxe can offer us some cheesy characters, but they will definitely make sense in our world and theirs. Thus, this point where extravagant attributes intersects with emotional realism defines the play. “To care about almost anything,” – Hardiman said in his interview to Variety – “including film, is absurd and it’s funny.” I just really value people who are passionate to the point of obsession”. This has neatly summed up what makes this movie work: a heart filled story that never takes itself too seriously.

Given that Thomas Hardiman had only made short films before this one, it’s amazing how elegant and well put together it looks (like all the hairstyles in Medusa Deluxe). Going for a one-take style with arresting visuals and quite an obscure setting also signals that Hardiman means business. None of these choices are defaults; there has been thought put into every aspect of its look and substance. Whilst clearly a strong directorial voice is not something new directors cannot achieve possessing, this also shows how much collaborations help in making movies happen.

It wouldn’t be too far off to say that even stylistically Medusa Deluxe feels appropriate to a movie about hairdressing. The lighting was dim yet bright with colors; there were mirror paneled corridors; moreover there was one take cinematography. All told though, these elements create an enclosed space through which both we feel lost within our minds as well as being familiarized by seeing others around them do so too. Robbie Ryan who has worked on films for directors such as Sally Potter, Andrea Arnold and Yorgos Lanthimos (Carpenter) is one of the crew. The production designer, Gary Williams, and Eugene Souleiman who did the hair for it.

In some cases, giving the impression that your film had been shot in a single take could seem like a complete gimmick; but here it doesn’t even register at first. As characters move through rooms, the camera is not really panning in close-up to their heads and shoulders. Consequently, the viewer’s perspective is almost ghostly or omnipresent given that these smooth movements are synchronized with characters. This builds on the decision to exclude the usual detective figure from this narrative and gives the viewer the opportunity to look for clues and come to their own conclusion.

This need for constant bigger and better twists is something that crosses multiple genres rather than just whodunits. While there is always going to be enjoyment in a well-executed twist that satisfies expectations, when they aren’t earned or logical they ruin stories

What makes Medusa Deluxe so efficient is that it emphasizes a plot that rewards by building on previously laid groundwork rather than trying to come up with a never-before-seen conclusion. While there may be some small moments, which will seem suspicious in your sight, they will pay off later and this adds to the feeling that you are the dectetive of the story.

Instead of pretending all had been really different and useless in the earlier acts when finally everything unfolds, it does not disregard all the work that had been done. Like how this film changes certain elements of typical murder mystery plots but nevertheless shows respect for its antecedents, it clearly respects its audience enough to know that they would grasp what’s going on in the movie through viewing it. Anybody can throw in third act twists that completely change the entire course of events but creating a narrative that consistently builds on itself and remains coherent throughout isn’t easy at all.

This is what makes Medusa Deluxe so unique – thoughtfulness. With an era of cinema dominated by reboots and cinematic universes ranging from nostalgically charming to purely money making schemes, having an original vision handed to us like this will never lack to be a delight. The movie creates an immersive world for one to explore from its eccentric yet believable characters to its intricate foreshadowing and distinctive visuals. By even acknowledging its own theatricality, humor and suspense are made out of these.

There might not be enough revelation for classic whodunit fans as far as the end is concerned but what matters most is how significant a climax becomes after further reflection and with time.

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