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The Hair Opera

Japan, 1992 (MIFF 1994, Fiction)

Director: Yuri Obitani

One of the most stunningly bizarre, original and flooringly funny films seen in years, Yuri Obitani's The Hair Opera is the story of the infatution of a young filmmaker with an artist and their shared obsession: hair! Obitani himself plays the filmmaker who sees an exhibition by Yosefu Kosuzu, where she displays samples of pubic hairs from men she has slept with, each precisely labeled, dated and mounted on white card. He arranges to interview her, and shortly afterwards begins sending her 'letters' in the form of first-person films, shot on super 8, also providing a camera so she can reply in kind. Not only does he cut his hair for her, on camera, but Obitani even attaches it to the film stock we see running through the projector. The Hair Opera becomes the chronicle of this filmic "correspondence", until young Obitani lets life invade art, then things get messy and very deceptive. Obitani, it transpires, is interested in landing a place in Ms Kosuzu's next exhibition. She is less enthusiastic.

Shot on super 8 and transferred to video for international use (and subtitling), The Hair Opera is that rare gem, a refreshing piece of filmmaking from out of nowhere (this is Obitani's first film). It draws on the well established Japanese super 8 diary tradition, fuzzes around the Japanese taboo on showing pubic hair and reduces audiences to tears of laughter.

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