Shampoo: WTF?

Netflix: a blessing and a curse.

It gives you near unlimited access to films you’ve heard about, heard about hearing about or even just thought had interesting looking titles.

But buyer beware.

The 70s were a treacherous time.

That’s not fair. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m pretty sure Shampoo sucked and I’m not sure why.

On paper, everything was so perfect. Harold and Maude is one of my favoirte movies, an inspiration to me stylistically, and Ashby is an unquestionably talented director. Warren Beatty is an actor I was introduced to late in his career/early in my life with Bulworth, but that movie was fucking awesome, so I didn’t really mind. But still the guy’s a pretty charismatic movie star (as well as a pretty funny dude) and I guessed that since he had some say in the script it might contain some good jokes. Speaking of which the other guy who wrote the script was fucking Robert Towne.

Yeah. The guy who wrote Chinatown around that time.

Now, listen, I know Polanski’s a great director, but I don’t know if I can blame thisone on Ashby. I feel he’s great too if maybe one-or-a-half-of-a-rung below Polanski.

So what is to blame?

Firstly, Shampoo as far as I can tell just isn’t funny. It’s about some oversexed faux-gay hairdresser (Beatty) who schtups all his clients, bored middle-aged wives-and-mistresses and is trying to get money to open up his own barber shop. That’s pretty much it. Somewhere along there, Nixon’s getting elected and people are wearing like blouses and stuff and big hair, but I’m not sure the point.

From what I could intuit from watching, the movie is a criticism of the cynicism of the 70s as a degredation of the 60s, trying to show how the 70s kept the sex, drugs and loose morals of the 60s, without actually maintaining any of its ideals. Warren Beatty looks like a kind of charismatic hippie-ish guy, riding around on a motorcycle with a poof of hair, but he doesn’t really have much more than that. No one in the movie knows what they wants, really, even a rich investor who after he discovers Beatty screwing his wife, tells him he’ll talk about investments the next day. The movie ends with a scene that falls flat, Beatty chasing after one of the girls he’s been screwing as if suddenly she’s important to him, with no actual purpsoe or motivation to denote that, followed by a cut to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys. Obviously this is some sort of parodic reference a la The Long Goodbye but one that’s missed on me.

So, I ask help.

Friends, film students, Jason Lees:

If anyone can explain this movie to me, either where it went wrong or where I did, it would greatly ease my sanity.

Right now, I just feel like someone made a really awkward joke, while I just sort of stand there wondering whether the joke sucked or I just wasn’t smart enough to get it.

An awkward situation.

***

It’s a small (lower-Manhattan downtown-theater writer-performer) world.

Last night, I saw Nocturne by Adam Rapp, as part of the Summer Solo Series going on at the Soho Playhouse.

It’s a good series of one-man/one-women shows with some high profile names, all of which are inexpensive (20 bucks for students) and one night only.

The ones I got tickets to were this, No Child…, a very well-reviewed solo-piece I missed when it played at the esteemed Greenwich House theater and Sakina’s Restaurant, which stars Aasif Mandivi of The Daily Show who happens to be one of the better correspondents (and apparently this was the show that got him on that one).

The one I wanted to go to (but it was more expensive) was Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell, apparently a benefit-performance for his organization.

Gray was an artist I never knew, but have always been interested. He seemed like one of those weird, meta-artists like fellow actor Crispin Glover, who seems to juxtapose a professional career with an experimental one balancing ignominy in one with unexpected results in the other. After his suicide, resultant of depression and all the other reasons why artists kill themselves, his friends put together this show, a product of his unpublished monologues and writings for which he was famous as a performance artist. I’m not sure why I want to see it, other than that he was a figure of some merit I understood in a field I am looking to go into and one I feel strangely to have so closely missed.

To anybody who is interested in seeing plays in New York City this summer, I recommend the series. It’s a small envirnonment and simply in hanging around the outside of the theatre last night, I got to meet both Adam Rapp, who was busy with what appeared to be a 19 year-old girlfriend (understandable; he’s writing and directing a feature for Scott Rudin) and Michael Lawrence, writer and performer of one of my favorite shows from this past summer: Krapp, 39.

For anyone who feels like they might have similar aesthetic tastes to me, I’d highly recommend Krapp, 39, still playing at the Soho Playhouse, which I saw first at the Fringe Festival last summer. It’s an introspective, humorous disconnected piece of the crossed wires of an actor/writer/pseudo-intellectual who, being a decently smart fellow, loves Samuel Beckett and decides, for posterity, to record a tape of himself reading the lines from Krapp’s Last Tape, so he can make work for himself in 30 years.

When I heard the description of Krapp, 39 and decided to see it, it performed a much needed service for me: It made me read a play. I read Krapp’s Last Tape by Beckett, sitting outside J+R Computer Store down on Park Row by City Hall as I waited for the show to begin. It was very rewarding not only to have read the play and seen Lawrence’s work separately, but to understand how another artist processes a play, as well as his own life.

Anyway, I recommend the series, if for nothing else, because it is a small world and it was nice to be able to meet people you admire in a casual setting; something that oddly makes you feel like they’re on your level or that you can reach theirs; something reassuring while unemployed.

***

Finally, a thank you to the people who came to my writing group the other day.

It was actually pretty fun.

We sat around. We read stuff. We acted. We drank beer.

Et cetera.

Maybe stuff might happen, or something.

You know.

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3 Responses to Shampoo: WTF?

  1. bryan says:

    I saw shampoo 3 or 4 years ago and loved it a lot. also not sure why.

  2. Jason Lee, Film Society Correspondent says:

    was in san francisco for dykes on bikes yesterday. fittingly, when i got home rocky 3 was on–brims with wildean homoeroticism. loved it. no joke or homo.

  3. sad i missed the writers group. sigh.

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