Hair (1979)

(On Cable TV, January 2017) Whew. There’s no doubt that Hair is a product of the seventies—if you try hard enough, you will even smell the decade through the film. A ham-fisted musical about hippies facing down the establishment, Hair struggles with caricatures, ludicrous plot twists, outdated messages and the inescapable conclusion that the hippies never amounted to much. (I kid, but not too much: In the great hippies-versus-establishment debate, I side firmly with The Man.) Only three songs register in mind: The title track is catchy, while “Age of Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In” have become seventies classic in their own right. This is a classic musical in the purest sense—meaning that people who can’t stand musicals won’t be convinced by this one either. This being said, there is something almost charming in seeing the 1970 (ish) re-creation of New York City, and the 20,000 extras used for the Central Park sequence make for a few jaw-dropping sequences. Milos Forman knows how to shoot a big movie, and while John Savage is a bit dull as the clean-cut protagonist, Treat Williams is a bit better as a hippie, and Beverly D’Angelo is memorable as an uptown girl. Calling Hair a product of the late seventies is a bit misleading, as it clearly channels the obsessions of 1968 America better than the disco era. But it’s definitely a trip through the time machine and even if it’s unequal, it does have a few moments of brilliance.

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