Pyuupiru 2001 - 2008

Me discovering this film has nothing to do with me actually attending Nippon Connection in Frankfurt but rather reading about it in Jasper Sharp's blog and eyeing the accompanying photo which featured an outlandishly designed costume representing the planet Mercury. Looking better in to it I discovered a brilliant artist who goes by the name of Pyuupiru. A performance artist, designer and photographer who uses himself and his altered body in his art but also a man who is unsure about his own skin and uses art to create his own world where he feels comfortable. After reading about it I quickly contacted the director who was gracious enough to provide me with a screener.
Director Daishi Matsunaga is a personal friend of the artist and for some reason or other decided to begin filming his friend in 2001 who was at that time breaking out and getting noticed. What follows is a intimate look at how a man goes from being simply a person who likes to create his own outfits to a world renowned visual artist and the changes he goes through from being a man to a altered asexual walking work of art.
I didn't know anything really about the film or the artist before reading about it so I assumed that the film would focus more on his art and be a sort of promotional piece intended for world exposure. But the art basically takes the back seat in this documentary and we focus primarily on the man himself talking to his friend behind the camera about his life growing up, his family and his hunt for love.

What Daishi captures in this film is a lonely person, struggling to find victories in his personal life while excelling as an artist. There is a great difference between the man and the over the top art he creates. His work is often garish, loud, huge, demands space, screams for attention and automatically draws you to it yet the man himself is shy and introverted and basically keeps to himself. One prominent thread that goes through the film is the hunt for love, it starts with him telling his friend that he wants to fall in love and ends with that same statement. I was reminded of documentary The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela, where a man, posing as a woman most of the time is trying to find love in the straight world and the struggle that can be. Pyuupiru is neither man nor woman but something in between.
In a society that celebrates and is known for outlandish fashion and extreme culture, homosexuality is strangely still a big taboo. And for a man that has altered his body to be between genders it must be a struggle to find what he craves the most. It's only through his art that he can express his views and thoughts and get the respect he lacks as a member of society.

Daishi has created a wonderful portrait of the man, exposing his thoughts and secrets to the world yet is never exploitive but loving and caring. The artist never puts on a face or poses to live up to what most people probably think of him, most of the time it's just two friends talking about their lives. While the low key approach can be deadly in most cases Daishi manages to create an atmosphere that allows you to take a look in to a person's life yet never feel guilty about it. Pyuupiru is a compelling person and the film makes you want to know more about him, especially as the film ends rather abruptly, a cliff hanger almost, and like the media whores we are, we want to see what happens next. Will there be another look in his life, a follow up? I would be up for it but I guess we will just have to wait and see.
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