Shampoo is a lesser Hal Ashby, not on par with his other great ’70s film. Often accused of misogyny (I’ve read that Julie Christie had some huge reservations about being in the film; it does seem a bit anomalous for her), the film is a little dated, though if taken just as a character study/comedy it definitely has its moments.
One of the best parts of the film is the opening credits, which boldly stays almost entirely in darkness for a good while as the sounds of George (Warren Beatty) and Felicia (Lee Grant) making love play loudly:
The film was shot by the famous Laszlo Kovacs (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces), and this is one of his more daring moments.
While Beatty gives a very strong performance as a lascivious hair dresser who may actually have a heart of gold, maybe the best reason to watch the film is for the variety of awesome outfits he sports throughout.
There’s the maroon tank top as he cuts Jackie’s (Julie Christie) hair in the bathroom-
-the aviator shades and brown leather jacket-
-and my favorite, the frilly tuxedo shirt:
That second image above is another coup for Kovacs, in a scene that seems to reference Wilder’s Sabrina (more on that below). I like the light gray tone he gets for night there, something that I often feel is too blue.
That above shot is the end of a sequence that begins below, where George takes Jackie into a tennis court and adjoining building during a party:
As mentioned, this feels a lot like the logical extension from Sabrina. If you know or remember that film, William Holden’s David Larrabee takes all of his girls – including at one point Audrey Hepburn – to a back tennis court to “court” them (ha, I never thought of that before). In that film, because it’s 1954, we never actually see the end of David’s courtships. This feels like Hal Ashby’s hunch of what actually happened in those numerous 1954 off-screen moments.
I won’t spoil the film, but the ending of Shampoo surprised me a bit. While I was maybe mostly blinded by the sparkling white outfits that Beatty and Christie sport-
-I was actually more surprised at how the narrative ended. I haven’t yet seen Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Don Jon, but I wonder if there will be similarities. The ending here is what feels most like a Hal Ashby film – I suppose the final 20 minutes in general do. That’s when the film really gets some life and starts moving beyond breakneck sex and into something a bit deeper.
As I’ve done in the past, I’m playing catch-up on a ton of other films, so here’s a sentence or two on a few movies that I’ve watched recently:
In a World (Bell, 2013)
This is one of my favorite films from 2013 so far. It really works against the easy way out a lot (the climactic moment when Lake Bell’s female voiceover character is awaiting to see if she got her big break or not eschews the traditional routes of suspense in favor of realer drama) and is hilarious.
Blue Jasmine (Allen, 2013)
I don’t think I’d be the first to make this comment: Cate Blanchett is so great in this film, but she’s acting in a different movie than everyone else. If that’s the point, then I only like one of those two movies.
Public Access (Singer, 1993)
The movie that got Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie their starts is a decent little A Face in the Crowd-type thriller. It’s low budget and it shows, but there’s a few nicely tense moments.
50/50 (Levine, 2011)
I liked this movie more than I expected to, despite its being incredibly predictable and boringly directed. Still, there are some nice script moments (Gordon-Levitt going for a jog early on and obeying the traffic signals is great), and the funny scenes are really funny.
The Imposter (Layton, 2012)
A chilling little documentary. This one was pretty gripping front to back, and director Layton uses reenactment in a way that doesn’t feel cheesy. I like the structure of the reveal at the end.