January 03, 2006

Compellingly Bad

Milos Forman's "Hair": I can't believe I haven't seen this before, or that it took so long to see it (no, I never saw the stage version, nor ever wanted to). Awesomely bad. Like Easy Rider, it fails in so many ways while striving so hard to be a Statement it's utterly compelling. Wooden acting. Creaky plotlines. A message that's so muddled it sometimes seems to be little more than "don't worry, be happy!", or "if you want to act like spoiled kids, there'll always be someone along later to pick up after you!". Or a bunch of smaller messages like: "Authority is Bad -- unless it's in the person of a handsome charismatic hippy", or "stereotypes and cliches are Bad -- unless they're in the hands of a famous director", or "don't go with the herd -- unless it's a herd of hippies in Central Park".

A movie that seems to believe that simply listing taboos is somehow enough (were the movie really daring it might have had ole Claude run off back to Oklahoma with Lafayette's wife and kid for a happy life of farming, but that'd be too much like the radical -- and human -- solution...). A movie that seems to think only in Black and White when it comes to "race" (something that seems kinda dumb and desperately limited from out here on the edge of the world in California).

But why get so, uh, heavy about it? Why look for messages? Why take it so seriously? It's just an artefact -- a product -- and a funny one, often enough (the recruitment office song and dance is almost Brooksian). As spectacle and pure entertainment, it's a lot better than most things out there (and that insidious soundtrack remains in the mind for weeks afterwards, despite my not caring much for the music itself...). And if you ignore the Statements and think in terms of the underlying message being something like "be human" or "try to love" or "life's complex", then it's a deeply inoffensive film.

(Part of Flix).

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