Medusa Deluxe (2022)

A riot of colours, dazzling and bizarre hairstyles and professional jealousy all come forth in this murder mystery, shot in one take, which is a feat in itself. Dive in to experience it.

8/27/20234 min read

Artists is 'Medusa Deluxe'
Artists is 'Medusa Deluxe'

English, 101 minutes, 2022

Director: Thomas Hardiman

Cinematography (DoP) : Robbie Ryan

Cast: Clare Perkins, Kae Alexander, Kayla Meikle, Harriet Webb, Luke Pasqualino, Darrel D’Silva, Heider Ali, Lilit Lesser

Awards: Winner, Best Make-up and Hair Design and Nominee, Best Production Design, British Independent Film Awards, 2022; Winner, Jury Award, Guadalajara International Film Festival, 2023; Nominee, First Feature Competition, London Film Festival, 2022

What attracted me to see and write review were two things- murder mystery and one-shot-one-take film. So I ventured but the film does not live up to its expectations, yet I would like you all to see it to know what kind of hard work goes into making a one shot film. The backdrop is of regional hair-styling competition and you have all the ingredients of the fashion world- Hair Models, hairstylists, their rivalries, their gossip and their insecurities. Given the premise of an exciting event featuring hair-models, ambitious hairdressers wanting to win with their hair styles and then murder of a fellow stylist- the film should have been taut like a thriller. But what it loses in content, it scores in its technicality. The camera blocking is ingenious and excellent. Imagine shooting in makeup rooms with so many mirrors in a one shot film- that must have required some very hard work and planning by Robbie Ryan and Thomas Hardiman- kudos to them.

The film starts with Cleve (Clare Perkins) blabbering about other hairstylists while working on her ‘fontange’ (a type of hair-do) on a model, Angie (Lilit Lesser). Also present is Divine (Kayla Meikle), another stylist who is religious and claims that she is getting closer to God. They talk about Mosca, the stylist who has been murdered. Angie needs a break and she moves out. Being a one shot film, camera follows her and we land up in a different location- another make up room. Normally a break is taken by model to go to washroom, get a drink, or smoke, but here she goes to gossip in another make up room. Why? Because camera needed to move after 7-8 minutes of solo bickering by Cleve, after all, how much talk can one take? So actor moves out because camera needed to move to give break to audience from seeing this one female talk incessantly in one single location (Cleve’s make up room) and not because there is a reason in script for the actress to move. This, in essence, sums up the approach taken by the director and is the problem with the film. It is guided by principle objective of making one-shot movie rather than delivering a tightly scripted murder mystery which it seems to want to.

So the camera follows different characters from one location to another, all located under one giant roof- because it houses make up rooms, storage rooms and exhibition stage where the final performance is going to happen. The characters, apart from those mentioned above, are Kendra, another hairstylist who is rumored to have rigged winning process, Rene (Darrel D’Silva) the flashy organizer who is also Mosca’s friend and Angel (played superbly by Luke Pasqualino), Mosca’s live-in partner, who is shattered by the news. And then there is a security guard, Gac (Heider Ali) because how can a murder mystery be complete without a security guard! However, all these just add to crowd and noise rather than being spicy ingredients in a beautifully cooked dish. Then if you think matters are not endearing enough, a baby is thrown in- Mosca and Angel’s baby, Pablo- a cute and adorable child who does stay cheered up all the while when camera is on him, and it is for quite some long duration as various characters carry him from one place to another while delivering their dialogues.

Among all the talk, there is less discussion about why would someone want to kill Mosca. We are not shown the murder scene and any police investigation. This is curiously insane- right from the starting sequence every model and stylist wants to get their statements recorded by police and go home but throughout the film we don’t see a single policeman recording a single statement! It is a murder mystery so until and unless investigation is shown, statements are recorded which mention contradictory or interesting facts, how can you make the film interesting and how do you plan to engage audience. The makers completely obliterated it.

Even though film doesn’t do well, my heart goes out to all the hard workers-the DoP, Robbie Ryan who must have spent hours and hours on sets with his crew walking up and down many number of stairs. One sequence stands out- Camera zooms in for close up (CU) of mobile phone screen, then go to actor’s CU and then lifts off to go wide and lands up almost two floors above on security guard’s CU through the glass and then starts walking with him on that floor. Some super thinking, planning and execution along with VFX (for removing glass and creating exact matching CU), that is. Not to forget the actors who were required to solidly memorize pages and pages of dialogues with no option of retake, the floor managers and assistant directors who must have been doing constant crisis management during takes and to be fair to him, also to Thomas Hardiman, the director who looks like he did work hard even though not in right areas. But come on, it is his debut film so let us cut him some slack, he will learn.

Music is superb and compliments the drama. End song is a typical bollywood song where all cast joins in to dance.

About the director, Thomas Hardiman

He studied at Chelsea college of Arts and later at Ruskin School of Art to larn Art direction. He worked in Art department for TV series ‘The Cut’ produced by UK’s production house EMU. Consequently, he moved on to write and direct short films and his first short film was ‘Time on my hands’ made in 2012. He followed it up with five more short films, notable being ‘Radical hardcore’, made in 2015, which won BFI’s Network pick series award.

Medusa Deluxe is his debut feature which got premiered at Locarno Film Festival, 2022. The film then was released in UK, USA and on MUBI in 2023.