Friday, December 19, 2008

Warren Beatty in "Shampoo": an odd movie for an odd time

I woke up at like 2:30am this morning with the TV still on, about halfway through 1975's bittersweet look back at 1968, "Shampoo". For those who have never experienced the magic of Warren Beatty's helmut-haired, characteristically wooden portrayal of a himbo hairdresser whose extreme dandy costumery created the template for the International Male line of clothing, it's very, uh, different.

The movie revolves around the motorcycling hairdresser who spends his days and nights cheating on an absolutely stunning Goldie Hawn with every woman who walks into his salon. The character is a blank slate with no real back story, motivation, desire (other than lots and lots of hetero fucking) or focus. He vaguely entertains the idea of opening his own salon, but gets caught fucking his financier's girlfriend, so that goes down the drain. Oh, and Goldie finds out and leaves him. Then the financier's girlfriend elopes with the financier, and after a torturous, constipated bit of Beatty acting sad, the credits roll. I guess the message is that cheating is, like, bad.

The interesting thing is the frame in which all of the frivolity is set: the eve of the 1968 presidential election, which everyone in 1975 understood to be the moment when the uber villian of that time, Richard Nixon, began his reign. The characters float around a rich hippy version of L.A. with lots of drugged out parties in enormous Hollywood Hills mansions with strobe lights and Beatles music. Everything is free and groovy as the looming bogeyman of the 1970s periodically pops up on TV screens campaigning for president.

It is impossible to understand why anybody liked this movie without understanding the deep malaise of the mid seventies. It feels like the popular culture spent a good part of the 70s asking "what went wrong?" The answer according to "Shampoo" is too much extracurricular fucking/voting for Nixon.

Anyway, "Shampoo" is really a piece of shit in the sun, rewarded by the 1976 Academy Awards with three Oscars, including Best Screenplay!

It's kind of worth a watch, just as a cringeworthy examination of the embarrassment that is Warren Beatty.

And at least it's not Bulworth.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're really clueless.

IvanJuan said...

I don't think Nic is clueless, but I definitely don't agree with him on this. Shampoo is loosely based on the life of Paul McGregor, owner for many years of 15 St. Mark's Place in the "heart" of the commercial strip between 3rd and Second avenues. Paul's mythical escapades are the partial foundation for the character, but the real life Paul McGregor lived happily ever after and simply downsized his hair cutting business drastically when Mullets and "Shag" haircuts went the way of the dinosaur. To his benefit, Paul helped foster and support the underground NYC club scene as the owner of the legendary Boy Bar, and to a lesser extent, Rock and Roll Fag Bar and various related parties. As far as Bullworth is concerned, how can you not like a movie about a President who smokes crack and does spontaneous, drug fueled power-yuppie gone liberal freestyle rhymes while on the fast-track to self-destruction? And Halle Berry is particularly yummie looking in the flic as well.

Phyllis said...

Went to Paul on La Cienaga in the early 70's but know that Shampoo was based on Gene Shacove for sure....A Hollywood Native that went to every hot hairdresser in town...........For the record ? Gene was Hefner's cutter and friend.....Thats a fact....see ya...

Phyllis said...

Paul was responsible for Jane Fonda's hair in " Klute' I believe.....thx