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Doris Dörrie and THE HAIRDRESSER: 8th FICM

One of the biggest surprises of the eighth edition of the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM) was the presence of the talented, purposeful, and very pleasant German filmmaker Doris Dörrie. Her film, The Hairdresser premiered in Morelia in 2010. It is a fun, vigorous, realistic comedy with bittersweet touches and elements of repudiation, humiliation, and xenophobia. This is the story of Kathi König, a tireless, cheerful, and passionate hairdresser weighing over a hundred kilos. She has a teenage daughter, who wants to overcome her health problems and accomplish her dream by opening a shop to show off her blow-dries, perms, haircuts, and nail repairs. Her robust and spectacular body is shown from different angles by a camera fascinated with the roundness of her shape. The film stars actress Gabriela Maria Schmeide (1965), who gained fifty kilos for the role.

La peluquera (2010, dir. Doris Dörrie)

Doris Dörrie (1955) from Hannover, Germany, moved to the United States when she was 18 years old. In California, she studied theater and film. Then, she moved to New York, where she studied philosophy, semantics, and psychology. Later, she worked as a film critic for the German newspaper Süddeutshe Zeitung, while studying at the Munich Film and Television School from 1975 to 1978.  She co-directed the documentary Ob's stürmt oder schneit (1976) with Wolfgang Berndt, and in 1983 she shot the television film A la mitad del corazón, about a lonely young woman who writes letters to herself.

If anything sets Doris Dörrie's work apart is her corrosive feminist satires on friendly relationships, the macho mentality and sexuality as subject and frustration, halfway between cartoonish farce and emotional drama, as shown in the blockbuster Men (1985). The film focuses on the friendship between a man and his wife's lover. Me and Him (1988) was filmed in the United States. It is about a man who dialogues with his virile member, starring Griffin Dunne. Money (1989) and, above all, Nobody Loves Me (1994), about a young girl eager for male companionship and a fan of death to the extent of taking suicide classes and building her coffin.

Characters who travel to Japan and connect with its culture are seen in Enlightenment Guaranteed (2000), The Fisherman and His Wife (2005), Cherry Blossoms (2008), and Greetings from Fukushima (2014). From his recent filmography, Bliss (2012), about an Eastern European girl who becomes a prostitute in Berlin, The Whole Shebang (2013), set in an exclusive hotel/spa, the documentary Qué caramba es la vida (2014), filmed in Mexico, about the universe of ranchero singers, Cherry Blossoms and Demons (2019), about a man who returns to the family home upon the death of his parents, and The Pool (2022).

Dörrie's films focus on eccentric characters placed in strange, hostile, or culturally different environments, forcing them to fight against the current. The script of The Hairdresser, written by Laila Stieler, highlights the joy of life, self-esteem, and willpower. When the protagonist, unemployed and with sclerosis, decides to open her beauty salon, the obstacles multiply, however, her immense energy, including her efforts to get out of bed (because of her weight), leads her to find the encouragement she needs and to meet characters that hinder or smooth her path. One of the best moments in the film is when Kathi, to get some extra money, helps a group of Vietnamese to cross the border. She ends up needing to host them in her tiny apartment. Not only does she enjoy a night of passion, but she shares her taste for outlandish and colorful decorations with them, in addition to social rejection.

Despite its friendly and light tone, The Hairdresser is a merciless critic of certain ways of life in European countries per the Austrian Ulrich Seidl. It is an intelligent portrait of the economic and cultural mosaic of Germany at the time about a hedonistic society that seeks in the spontaneous and exotic gesture of other ways of life, a way to counteract the coldness of the city. All this, within the guidelines of a modern fable about loneliness and overweight, between the cruel and the hilarious, insists on the themes of insensitivity, lack of communication, and the pursuit of love and happiness. The presentation of Dörrie in Morelia 2010 remains in our memory as one of the most joyful memories of the festival.