PYUUPIRU 2001-2008 Now that's a dress.

TOKYO ARTIST PYUUPIRU'S arresting collection of images and performances are among the most wildly creative visual feasts in the world. Bulbous shapes, bright riotous color combinations, meticulous handwork, and extreme makeup all factor into his costumes, and as model and embodiment of his own visions, Pyuupiru's own body is a medium.

Pyuupiru 2001-2008 is directed by Daishi Matsunaga, a close friend of Pyuupiru's from their clubbing days, when the artist first gained attention. The friendship lends the documentary a personal, discreet quality, more portrait than art education. Pyuupiru is forthcoming about his struggles as he transitions from male to female (throughout the film, he is referred to with male pronouns by friends and family). The hormones he takes make him emotionally unstable, and he is preoccupied by his desire to find a romantic partner. At the film's outset, Pyuupiru is a gay man who's never had a real relationship, and seven years later, as a remarkably beautiful asexual creature, he is still yearning for a connection. In the intervening years he has an unsatisfying, unconsummated affair with a straight man who never appears on camera, and is only referred to as "Papa."

Pyuupiru is not the first artist whose alteration of his own body is embedded in his art—in addition to hormones, he has undergone castration surgery, laser hair removal, and multiple other cosmetic procedures. Likewise, many of his designs are reminiscent of Leigh Bowery, another clubby, queer icon whose fixation on his physicality manifested in outrageous costumes, inspiring artists of the '80s and '90s New York and London scenes, from Alexander McQueen to Antony and the Johnsons. Nonetheless, the earnestness and pure visual delight of Pyuupiru's art, culminating toward the close of the film with a heart-stopping performance and a sculpture of over 50,000 hand-folded paper cranes, is an undeniably powerful body of work.

Pyuupiru screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Japanese Currents series. For more info, see Film Shorts, this issue, and nwfilm.org.