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Opening This Week: Vidal Sassoon The Movie

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In all seriousness, it’s not hyperbole to title the upcoming Vidal Sassoon biopic—set for theatrical release February 11th—How One Man Changed the World With a Pair of Scissors. The film, which spans nearly 80 years of Sassoon’s life and career, is both a sentimental and matter-of-fact look at how two of the hairdresser’s signature cuts—the graduated bob and the five-point—irrevocably altered pop culture and transformed the way people perceive beauty, beginning in London in the swinging 60s.

Constructed from a series of three-to-four hour interviews that Bumble & Bumble founder Michael Gordon conducted with Sassoon at his Beverly Hills home—a shrine to architectural modernism he shares with his fourth wife, Rhonda—the documentary traces Sassoon’s roots beginning with the seven childhood Depression-era years he spent living in an orphanage in London’s East End. After his mother remarried—during the war to a man Sassoon affectionately calls Nathan G.—he rejoined family life at age 14 and got his first job working with scissors, at a glove-cutters. It was that year that his mother told him, “I’ve had a premonition you’re going to be a hairdresser.”

Sassoon opened his first salon in 1954—a 700 square-foot third-floor walkup in London’s 108 New Bond Street—where he debuted the signature Sassoon look and technique. At the time, the 50s, perhaps the most well-known of all society hairdressers was a man called Raymond—a.k.a. Teasy-Weezy—whose perfectly-rolled curls, voluminous backcombed bouffants, and set-in-stone glamazon looks were the gold standard of hairdressing. Along came the modernist Sassoon—who eschewed teasing and setting—and his sharp, personalized, geometric cuts, his Bauhaus-inspired shapes, and his entirely-anti-superfluous aesthetic.

“He was crazy,” says a hairstylist who worked for Sassoon at the time. If clients dared touch their hair during the cutting process, Sassoon would smash them on the knuckles with a comb. Some of the most fascinating footage in the biopic is the footage the filmmakers unearthed from this time—old reels of Sassoon explaining to a customer what was wrong with her hair and why she ought to trust her head to his hands. “If your instinct tells you what you’re doing is wrong,” Sassoon says, “you shouldn’t do it.”

Sparing you the minute details, the film carries the viewer through the back stories behind Sassoon’s famous Nancy Kwan graduated bob cut—the original image of which graces the documentary’s promotional posters—and interviews the iconic Grace Coddington about her modeling the original five-point. Also explored in depth are Sassoon’s collaborations with 60s legend Mary Quant, the inventor of the mini-skirt, his work with model Peggy Moffatt, and behind-the-scenes looks on the set of Rosemary’s Baby, for which Sassoon gave Mia Farrow her now-signature pixie haircut.

Also fascinating are the stories of Sassoon’s move to the United States, where he opened his first American salon in Manhattan and launched the first-ever hairdresser-branded haircare line. Remember the tagline, “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good?” While today it’s hard to imagine a beauty industry without salon and celebrity hairstylist-branded products, it’s mind-boggling to think that this one man started it all.

How One Man Changed the World With a Pair of Scissors opens in New York February 11th. Check the website for information on showtimes and release dates near you.
· Vidal Sassoon The Movie [Official Site]