Three unusual young women at crucial junctures in their lives are thrown together in "Hypnotized and Hysterical (Hairdresser Wanted)." A completely off-kilter confection with witty musical numbers, pic marks the memorable feature-length debut of Claude Duty. This is a fresh, impossible-to-catalog romp with a style and humor all its own.

Three unusual young women at crucial junctures in their lives are thrown together in “Hypnotized and Hysterical (Hairdresser Wanted).” A completely off-kilter confection with witty musical numbers, pic marks the memorable feature-length debut of Claude Duty, who has been an award-winning staple of the short film circuit since the mid-1970s. Peppered with comic visuals and propelled by wonderful perfs from its central trio, this is a fresh, funny, impossible-to-catalog romp with a style and humor all its own. Distribs should definitely take a look and fests have the makings of a swell sidebar in this and a sampling of Duty’s sometimes silly, sometimes serious, shorts.

Opening credits, in which the peas in a serving platter of paella take on animated personalities, are an apt start into to this stylized blend of melodrama and black humor whose inventive twists and turns surprise and amuse.

Angry working-class single mom Elodie (Olivia Bonamy) is fired from her umpteenth minimum-wage job and needs to prove to the authorities that she’s fit to raise her daughter.

Congenitally optimistic hairdresser and alcoholic Natacha (Marina Fois) falls to pieces when her beloved cat goes missing.

Marianne (Amira Casar) is in sexual thrall to bad boy art dealer Arnaud (Charles Berling), but she’s had it with his polymorphous perversity — at a trendy party he’s seen in the background chatting up another girl, then embracing another man and finally ducking into another room presumably to get it on with a canine.

Duty delights in placing the occasional comical incident off in the distance, much like the additional gags drawn in the margins of Mad magazine. He’s also skilled at delivering attenuated punch lines long after the setup is in place.

Circumstances send the three gals on interwoven personal odysseys in which an animated tale told by mellow ethnologist Philippe (Sergi Lopez) provides punctuation. Song lyrics, delivered deadpan — which only enhances their sublime silliness — are full of wordplay and sardonic observations. (“When you’re sad, just think of the Kurds and Chechens — or Chernobyl where people wear three-legged jeans”).

Peppy production design is modest but effective and low-key dance numbers — including a snippet of synchronized swimming — play to the strengths of three femmes, all of whom perform their own vocals.

Hypnotized and Hysterical, (Hairstylist Wanted)

Critics Week / France

Production

A Mars Distribution release (in France) of a Move Movie presentation of a Move Movie, France 2 Cinema production. Produced by Bruno Levy. Directed by Claude Duty. Screenplay, Jean-Philippe Barrau, Pascale Faure, Claude Duty.

Crew

Camera (color), Bruno Romiguiere; editor, Agnes Mouchel; music, Valmont; lyrics, Pierre-Dominique Burgaud; production designer, Jean-Pierre Clech; set decorator, Jean Moulin; costume designer, Anne Schotte; sound (Dolby), Cyril Moisson, Bruno Tarriere; choreographer, Chloe Ban; assistant director, Euric Allaire; casting, Jeanne Millet. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics Week), May 17, 2002. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Marianne - Amira Casar Natacha - Marina Fois Elodie - Olivia Bonamy Arnaud - Charles Berling Philippe - Sergi Lopez
With: Lea Drucker, Esse Lawson, Margot Abascal, Evelyne Buyle, Sylvie Lachat, Francia Seguy.
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