Film & TV

"Vidal Sassoon: The Movie" in Desperate Need of Shaping and Trimming

More accurately titled Vidal Sassoon: The Slavering Advertorial, Craig Teper's obsequious documentary on the stylist who popularized geometric haircuts in the '60s is in desperate need of shaping and trimming itself. Organized, sort of, around executive producer and Bumble and Bumble founder Michael Gordon's assembly of a coffee-table book on the celebrity hairdresser, the film begins with a chorus of off-screen voices panting, "He was the messiah." Hyperbole soon gives way to truisms, as when mod fashion designer Mary Quant reminisces with Sassoon about swinging London, unnecessarily reminding us, "They called it 'youthquake.'" Teper's portrait is least vacuous when the hairstylist, now a silver-foxy octogenarian, recalls his life before he became a tonsorial star in 1963: the Shepherd's Bush Jew who spent several years in an orphanage and fought anti-Semitic thugs; his apprenticeship to Raymond Besson (alias Mr. Teasy Weasy); the elocution lessons that forever extinguished his Cockney accent, replacing it with the posh Euro timbre made famous in Sassoon's TV commercials from the '70s and '80s. But after the career-defining moments of the five-point cut, Mia Farrow's 'do in Rosemary's Baby, and Sassoon's hair-product line are solemnly addressed, Teper is content to fill the running time with his health-enthusiast subject demonstrating Pilates stretches as Sassoon's fourth wife talks about what a noble man her husband is.

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Melissa Anderson is the senior film critic at the Village Voice, for which she first began writing in 2000. Her work also appears in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.