Saturday, February 26, 2011

VIDAL SASSOON: THE MOVIE (2011)

Directed by Craig Teper


Where & When: Laemmle Sunset 5, West Hollywood, CA. February 22, 2011 1:00 PM


"If you don't look good, we don't look good."

This was the tag line at the end of the commercials for Vidal Sassoon's hair care products and the ads were responsible for helping him become not only a world famous hair designer but also a recognizable celebrity. This documentary, "Vidal Sasson: The Movie" (not a very inspired title) takes us through his life and career and how he almost single handily altered how people thought about hair while helping make hairdressing a true art form.

He started from humble beginnings as the son of  Jewish immigrants born in London. After his father left the family, his mother could not raise him alone so she placed Vidal in a Jewish orphanage at the age of seven. He attended a catholic school before being evacuated out of the city during World War II. After the war, he returned to London and due to his mother's premonition that the young Vidal would become a hairdresser, she managed to get her son an apprenticeship to learn the craft. He was taught to cut hair using only scissors and he never altered from that, believing that he had to touch the hair to create his magic. Sassoon was never interested in simply being just a regular hairdresser for hire. If he had had his way, he would have become an architect, so he eventually evolved his work by incorporating geometry to create his signature hair styles.

His first big break came in 1963, when actress, Nancy Kwan wanted to change her look for a role in an upcoming film. Sassoon cut her long hair down to a radical asymmetrical bob. He was wise enough to have her immediately photographed and that image appeared on the cover of Italian Vogue. The look became a world-wide sensation which became known as the "Nancy Kwan" as well as helping to make a name for the designer. Sassoon would team up with Mary Quant, one of the creators of the mini-skirt and together they helped usher in a fashion movement in the 1960's.

Vidal Sassoon would become so famous that after director, Roman Polanski requested that he cut the hair of actress, Mia Farrow for the film, "Rosemary's Baby" in 1968, a squad of photographers were on the set to document the event which I highly doubt would occur today. He was even mentioned in the film. Sassoon soon branched out by opening training schools, beauty salons across the globe and a popular line of shampoos and conditioners, all under his own name as well as becoming a best selling author and headlining his own television show.

This documentary was conceived by Michael Gordon, founder of Bumble and Bumble Hair Salons and a friend of Mr. Sassoon's, as a way to remind people of his importance in the world of hair styling, but it doesn't really dig too deep on the film's subject. While it touches on a few tough times and personal tragedies in Mr. Sassoon's life, the film basically shines him only in a very flattering light without a single person to utter anything short of glowing praise. While this is not necessarily detrimental but it would certainly make for a stronger film if there was just a bit more objectivity.

He freely admits that he can be a bit of a prickly personality which is also confirmed by a few of the people who worked for him but it's also clear that he might not have achieved all of his success if he wasn't driven by a determination to stay true to his intuition and not allow anyone to get in his way. Mr. Sassoon is a very charming man, having lived a truly amazing life and now at eighty-three, he is still quite active, thanks, in part, to his attention to health and fitness throughout his youth. "Vidal Sassoon: The Movie" is a captivating and inspiring document of the life of a true visionary who always had his eye on the future while never forgetting what came before him.