Shampoo (1975)

Shampoo (1975), directed by Hal Ashby.

My first thought about this film is: Why did Warren Beatty want to be in it? He also produced it and shares writing credit with Robert Towne. It is not a bad film or a bad role or a bad performance, but I would think the story of a Beverly Hills hairdresser juggling several demanding women who have no respect for his refractory period would be a sensitive one for him.

Why? Because the man was legendary -- perhaps even record-breaking -- in the number of women he bedded, a comprehensive catalog of the Hollywood beautiful and famous. Whether he indulged waitresses and secretaries or stuck with an upper strata of celebrity: I do not know. I remember bitter, probably jealousy-motivated diatribes about him in print -- that he had been pumping his genetic material into the Hollywood talent for many years -- where only famous names were featured.

The character of befuddled hair-cutter is not much like hard-working and talented Beatty, but his love life has parallels to the actor's. Did he not mind? Was he trying to work out something with his reputation? Says the character: "I've never been able to say no".

Compared to other Ashby films I have reviewed -- Harold and Maude (1971), The Last Detail (1973), Coming Home (1978) -- this is lower energy soap opera. A little sad but with funny bits: the stud's apprehension of sexual exhaustion is always worth a laugh, and in a notorious scene Julie Christie becomes unrestrained in word and deed when she drinks too much at a party. Businessman Jack Warden anticipates Three's Company by comforting himself that the hairdresser must be gay.

Joining the lovely Christie are Lee Grant and Goldie Hawn, and Carrie Fisher in her film debut at age 19.

Beatty and Christie also teamed in McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) and Heaven Can Wait (1978).

Photographed by László Kovács. Paul Simon gets score credit, but most of the music is rock from 1968, when the story is set.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion, a naturally grainy image.