Vidal Sassoon: The Movie: Review

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Almost comically overconvinced of the importance of its subject, "Vidal Sassoon: The Movie" is nonetheless entertaining and comprehensive in its account of the man's career.

The documentary is an entertaining and comprehensive account of the once-ubiquitous hairstylist's career, though it tends to overstate the importance of its subject.

NEW YORK -- Almost comically overconvinced of the importance of its subject -- one of its first sound bites suggests "it's impossible to overestimate his importance"; later interviewees describe his "epic level" creativity and compare his "war" against stodgy hairstyling trends to World War II -- Vidal Sassoon: The Movie is nonetheless entertaining and comprehensive in its account of the man's career.

Despite the hard pitch, the doc doesn't quite sell Vidal Sassoon as an integral shaper of the culture at large (it comes closest during his Swinging London years), though it does remind us just how ubiquitous the scissor-man was, and for how many years. As a result, it seems unlikely (outside fest bookings) to draw much of a theatrical crowd beyond hardcore fashionistas.

The stylishly made doc -- Vidal may be more dapper in his 80s than he ever was -- isn't distractingly fawning, but does occasionally feel like a feature-length promotion for the coffee-table book being assembled by Bumble and Bumble founder Michael Gordon, one of the film's producers. We return often to a studio where Gordon's team is assembling the book's layout, working chronologically through Sassoon's childhood in an orphanage, his work as a bike messenger on London's war-torn streets, his apprenticeship and then the stages of his long career.

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The straightforward encomium doesn't delve too deeply into the man's psyche, but it offers a vivid picture of his working process, as a parade of former employees describes his perfectionism and the strict discipline of his salons. Viewers not inclined to take such things seriously will have exactly one opportunity to reconsider: As the film chronicles the radical cutting style Sassoon developed in the early '60s, someone points out the social impact of freeing women from their weekly primp-and-perm appointments -- cutting their hair in such a way that gravity did much of the styling work for them until time for the next cut.

Its talking heads come exclusively from the fashion/hair world, but the film benefits from long, likable interviews with the man himself. The worst thing is the possibility viewers will leave humming a jingle they may have managed to purge from their heads two decades ago: "If you don't look good / We don't look good / Vidal Sassoon!"

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival
Production company: Vidal Sassoon The Movie
Director: Craig Teper
Screenwriters: Heather Campbell Gordon, Craig Teper
Executive producer: Jim Czarnecki
Producers: Jackie Gilbert Bauer, Michael Gordon
Directors of photography: Saul Gittens, Craig Teper
Music: Steven Griesgraber
Editor: Craig Teper
Sales agent: Cinetic
No rating, 93 minutes

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