Saturday, January 30, 2010

Shampoo (1975)


mikeovswinton said...

I saw about 15 mins of this on the telly once upon a time in the late 70s or early 80s. I turned over for something good like Crossroads or Darts with the commentary of Sid Waddell ("That's darts for the cogniscenti" was my favourite Siddism.) Was it as bad as I remember?

Darren said...

First of all, I have to say that I find it hard to believe that as a young man in the late 70s/early 80s, you would have opted for the darts over Shampoo unless the latter was heavily cut by the tv censors. We're talking pre-red triangle channel 4 here.

I wouldn't say it's a bad film but I can't hand on keyboard insist to you and googlebot that you must watch this film.

I read Peter Biskind's 'Easy Riders, Raging Bulls' a few years back, so I had some background knowledge of the film and its makers - Hal Ashby, Beatty and Robert Towne - going in.

And I was aware that part of the backdrop to the film was that as all the partner swapping shenanigans is going on, in the background, on the television and on the billboards, we're told that Nixon has been elected President for the first time, and that supposedly he's going to heal the divide in America - the old against the young, the anger surrounding Vietnam etc - but as the film progressed I was getting a bit blanded out by Beatty performance.

It was Beatty playing Beatty. The charm and the smile and the hair, and I was trying to work out how and why Shampoo had won the Oscars, why it was one of the biggest films of 1975, and why it was so well regarded by Biskind, but then there's this scene in the final third of the film between Beatty and Goldie Hawn's character.

I won't try and describe the scene in any detail but it's where Hawn confronts Beatty about his infidelity, and initially Beatty tries to wriggle out of the accusation with the charm, the smile and the hair but suddenly he just stops, collapses in on himself and admits to the serial indiscretions. There's no sense of shame or defiance on his part for what he's done. He's just accepting of it, and it's a really brilliant scene that elevates both the film and Beatty's performance.

I'm not really giving the scene - or Beatty - the justice they both deserve but that's because it wasn't just the dialogue that made the scene. It was the body language of Beatty when he finally sits back and says to himself and those around him, that he can't listen to his own bullshit any more.

I've probably read too much into the scene, but it was the point where I thought, 'now I understand why (some) people have raved about this film.'

As it is was made in '75 the film also has the obligatory downbeat ending, and that's a refreshing change when watching a mainstream movie. No doubt six months from now, when I've watched my 25th mid seventies movie with the bittersweet ending, I'll be ranting 'enough already with the whiney post-watergate blues', give me Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore in Fever Pitch.