40 years ago today, Hair, one of acclaimed director Milos Forman’s most underrated films, was released. Forman (1932-2018) was born in Czechoslovakia, began his film career there, emigrated to New York in 1968 and is best-known for The Fireman’s Ball, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (one of only three films to sweep Best Picture/Director/Actor/Actress/Screenplay), and Amadeus. While all of those are marvelous, Hair is one of my favorites of Forman’s works.
Forman based his movie on the Broadway musical, which achieved notoriety in the late Sixties for its use of profanity, nudity and drug use, as well as allusions to homosexuality. All of these are present in the film, but its screenplay tightened up the plot considerably, as well as making a few changes in important events. This led the creators of the musical to denounce the movie. In my opinion, the changes made improve the story immeasurably, giving the audience a more conservative character (Claude, a rural draftee played by John Savage) to balance the members of George Berger’s (Treat Williams) “tribe” of countercultural hippies. Coming as the film did in 1979, this gave it a less cliched viewpoint. Claude soon becomes friends with the tribe and empathizes with their anti-war stance, while still retaining his determination to fulfill his military obligation. The ending is devastating in its impact, making me weep the first time I saw it.
Everything here is stellar–the performances, the singing (particularly Cheryl Barnes’s rendition of Easy To Be Hard), and the dancing, choreographed by Twyla Tharp in explosions of color and grace. The themes of freedom and protest must have been dear to Forman’s heart, coming as he did from a Communist regime.
Hair is currently available on Amazon Prime.
Let The Sunshine In!