3 MAY 1975, Page 21


Soap and Watergate

Kenneth Robinson

Shampoo Director: Hal Ashby Stars: Warren Beatty, Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie, Lee Grant, Jack Warden 'X' Odeon, Haymarket (110 minutes).

This is the story of a Beverly Hills hairdresser who goes to bed with his customers. They include the wife and the mistress of a local tycoon. And while the hairdresser is being faithless with each to the other, the tycoon is striking poses and talking about making his country a better place to live in.

The tycoon is, in fact, a lecherous creep who cares very little for his country and a great deal for making money. His burst of patriotic behaviour is brought on by an election-night party. This is one of the best scenes in the picture. It shows Americans making whooppee beside television screenings of their new president, Richard Nixon. Behind their inane chatter this extraordinary man is heard giving the promises that he doubtless intended to keep.

The trouble with a scene like this is that you can't be sure how symbolic it is meant to be. Is the writer, Robert Towne, showing us that citizens can be as unscrupulous as their politicians? If so, it is hardly worth saying. But if we don't look too deeply the idea isn't at all bad. As the playboys disport themselves around the television screens we see politicians and people mixed up together, all looking pretty silly. The political pronouncements sound even more stupid than usual when heard among party-goers who are drunkenly disregarding them. And the party-goers look especially ridiculous next to television pictures of an impending crisis in the country's leadership.

This film will mean more to American audiences than to us because of their stronger feelings about Watergate and about the Beverly Hills way of life. In fact if we don't look at the story as a piece of social comment it seems superficial. None of the girls has enough to say to be interesting. And the roving hairdresser is too busy bed-hopping to show he has a mind as well as a body, Except for one moment, towards the end of the picture, when he finds he is in love with one of his conquests. Until then he has conducted his love affairs irresponsibly because they make him feel, as he puts it, that 'life can go on for ever'.

A sense of purposeless living is nicely conveyed by Lee Grant and Julie Christie, as the tycoon's wife and his mistress. The tycoon himself, played by Jack Warden, is the most credible character. And Warren Beatty, who also produced the film and helped to write the script, makes the hot-blooded hairdresser look more pathetic than attractive. Maybe this was his intention. It's difficult to imagine anyone doing better with a Romeo who rides to his ladies on a motor-cycle with a hair-drier stuck in his belt like a revolver.

This film, we are assured by the makers, reflects the mood of the sixties. As the characters were signed off with a song from the Beatles I had a suspicion we were not seeing the last of them. You can't help feeling they will be back one day with President Ford. And who? The Who?