A wigmaker becomes obsessed with a lonely woman who sells him her long locks in “Hair,” writer-helmer Tayfun Pirselimoglu’s stringently painterly Istanbul-set drama. The third part of a trilogy, along with “Riza” and “Haze,” exploring lives of quiet desperation in contempo Turkey, Pirselimoglu’s latest has the kind of formal precision and meditative quality that will endear it to highbrow critics. However, with its indulgently long, static takes and painfully indirect storytelling method, pic will be a hard sell even to arthouse auds. Given the helmer’s growing rep, “Hair” at least should fan out to further fests.
Hamdi (Ayberk Pekcan) owns a sad little wig store for which he makes his own stock. Alone and frustrated by unfulfilled desires, and seemingly stricken with cancer (judging by an oblique early scene), Hamdi becomes infatuated with Meryem (Nazan Kesal, from Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Distant” and “Climates”), a middle-aged femme who comes in one day to sell her yard-long tresses, but cries as Hamdi cuts them off.
Hamdi unobtrusively follows Meryem back to her home, and figures out she’s married to Musa (Riza Akin, “Riza”), who works in a funeral home washing corpses and seems (again, based on subtle hints) to be having an affair with someone else. When Meryem learns Hamdi is stalking her, she tells him to get lost at first, but Hamdi’s sheer persistence wears her down; her resistance is further eroded when an abrupt act of violence removes Musa from the scene.
Making abundant use of carefully composed long shots that afford the opportunity to feast on images of Istanbul’s jolie-laid urban landscape, pic’s first two thirds rep diverting enough viewing. However, the impression grows incrementally that the script doesn’t add up to much more than a severely attenuated short film, and a last-act transition into weirdsville doesn’t work on the intended psychological level.
That said, it’s nigh impossible to know what’s going on in any of these severely laconic characters’ heads, placing a heavy burden on the ensemble; fortunately, the three principals are expressive and soulful enough to hold aud interest.
Throughout, Pirselimoglu poses his people like life models in distinctive postures (particularly lying flat) that echo across scenes, but such stylized mannerisms fail to add up to anything much more than directorial gamesmanship. Strong lensing by regular collaborator Ercan Ozkan proves entrancing.