Shampoo (1975)

Shampoo (1975)This satirical take on the degradation of ‘60s counter-culture contains genuine insight, positioning Nixon’s election – seven years prior to filming – as the death knell for hippies. The narrative uses the election as backdrop rather than focus, however, centring its story on the collaborations and copulations of lothario hairdresser George (Warren Beatty; the synchronicity between character and actor is impossible to miss).

George fucks every woman he meets; including the mistress (Julie Christie), wife (Lee Grant) and daughter (Carrie Fisher) of Republican businessman Lester (Jack Warden), who George hopes will finance his salon. Shampoo’s allegory matures into a stinging excoriation of bohemian politics; Lester and George’s intertwined sex lives criticising the corporate co-option and corruption of hippy ideals (reinforced in the third act, which sees Lester stumble gleefully through a party filled with flower children and strobe lights).

The lack of identification with George limits Shampoo’s emotional effectiveness; as a symbol of the inefficacy of the counter-culture he’s effective (though he states that he’s not anti-establishment), but he’s not an engaging protagonist. Compare to McCabe and Mrs Miller, which is effective as allegory but gives fuller characters for both Beatty and Christie to play and is a better film for it.

3 stars

7 thoughts on “Shampoo (1975)

    • Yeah, Hawn was good in this – couldn’t really fit a mention of her (or her skimpy clothing!) into 200 words.

  1. Nice review here, Dave. I recently watched this one for the first time myself, and I liked it quite a bit. Though, not as much as I was led to expect. I did love how Beatty’s character was so similar to his real life persona, as you mentioned. And Jack Warden… what a ham his character was. Hilarious.

    • Yeah, it’s not a bad film but it didn’t live up to my expectations of Ashby after seeing Harold and Maude, The Last Detail and Being There (though I wasn’t a big fan of Coming Home). I did love Warden’s work here, though.

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