out of Five
Running time: 93
Stylishly directed and edited, this is an undeniably entertaining and occasionally fascinating documentary about a genuinely intriguing subject, though it's ultimately, understandably, a little too one-sided and feels uneven as a result.
What's it all about?
Directed by Craig Teper, Vidal Sassoon: The Movie (subtitle: How One Man Changed The World With A Pair Of Scissors) takes a look at the life and work of 81-years-old-and-still-going-strong hair stylist Vidal Sassoon, whose iconic geometrichaircuts became synonymous with the 1960s and helped launch Sassoon as a global brand and multi-million-dollar success story. The majority of the film consists of talking head interviews with Sassoon himself as he leads us through his story while hair-care expert Michael Gordon prepares a picture book to celebrate his life's work.
What quickly becomes apparent is that although everyone knows Sassoon's name, very little is known about his background, so it's fascinating to learn about his childhood in a Jewish East London orphanage, his initial apprenticeship with an East End hairdresser or how he took on Oswald Mosley's fascists in street fights as a young man. Equally intriguing is the inspiration for Sassoon's iconic five-point haircut – he was apparently inspired by classic architecture, something the film attempts to illustrate with not entirely successful results.
Sassoon is a lively and engaging presence onscreen and the film is stylishly shot, using black and white inserts for the interview sequences. There are also interesting conversations from a variety of talking heads (not to mention a shock appearance by a youthful Noel Edmonds, when the film reaches Sassoon's TV career), as well as touching, specially filmed chats between Sassoon and some of his more famous collaborators, most notably mini-skirt inventor Mary Quant, who, tellingly, still sports a Sassoon haircut.
The main problem with the film is that, given Sassoon's obvious close involvement with the project, it risks becoming something of a hagiography, glossing over his multiple divorces (though at least one ex-wife is on hand to say nice things) and avoiding anything remotely negative (no sign of his self-confessed temper, for example). It's also occasionally embarrassing, such as when the film illustrates his involvement in the Katrina relief effort with a clip of him saying, “So I thought, 'How can we get hairdressing involved in this?'”
Vidal Sassoon The Movie is an entertaining and frequently fascinating documentary but its one-sided approach eventually takes a toll and you feel like you're not getting the full picture. Worth seeing, all the same.