Dir. Craig Teper, UK, 2010, Dur. 90 mins.
Cast: Vidal Sassoon, Michael Gordon, Mary Quant, Ronnie Sassoon
Review by Carlie Newman
This has a somewhat pretentious title for what is after all a little documentary film about a man who changed the art of hairdressing. For those who were around in the 60s, the name of Vidal Sassoon and his innovative hairstyling should be of interest. For younger folk, it will probably mean hairdressing products, such as shampoo etc
The film virtually follows Michael Gordon as he documents Sassoon’s life in a book. Director Teper films Gordon as he interviews those who have been associated with the (self-styled) God of hairdressing throughout his long life. Now 81, Sassoon looks back on his early life from his days in a Jewish orphanage, through his apprenticeship in a local saloon, where he was taken on without pay, his part in the fight against Mosley and other fascists and his eventual success. Born in Hammersmith, London in 1928, Vidal was put into the orphanage for seven years after his father left home when his son was three. On his journey through life Sassoon spent a year in Israel, fighting in the Israeli Defence Forces in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. Although his early marriages are somewhat glossed over, Vidal married his first wife, Elaine in 1956 and his fourth, Ronnie, who speaks about her husband in the film, in 1992.
He created his famous short “bob” haircut in 1963 and is best known for devising the geometric cut, whereby after the hair has been cut, one only had to wash and let dry – without the huge rollers which many women used in the 50s. He says that he cut hair to in the way he thought was right for each person. Vidal’s haircuts not only changed the look of women but ushered in the “swinging sixties.” This pioneering hair fashion made him famous virtually throughout the world and he was able to set up schools, teach and pass on his extensive knowledge.
The film over-praises Sassoon – at one point talking of “how one man changed the world with a pair of scissors” – but yet he was very successful and those of us who were around in that era of change will remember the time in a glow of nostalgia. For others this is a film which documents one aspect of the fashions of this particular period.