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Hair (Olive Signature)
An unbridled energy that celebrates freedom, love and life itself is the component that undeniably turns what could have been a quick cash grab adaptation of the hit Broadway play into one of the most unforgettable movie musicals of all time. Director Milos Forman uses real New York locations for even the grandest of his musical numbers, giving them a tactile feel while never undermining the spectacle. The simple story of a group of hippies, led by Treat Williams' rambunctious George Berger, trying to show a Vietnam-bound soldier (John Savage) that there's more to life than dying sheepishly for a corrupt and needless war, is propped up by the balance Forman finds between the exuberantly psychedelic and the tragically grounded.
I have the MGM blu-ray release of Hair in my library, so I was able to compare it directly to Olive's brand new restoration. Even though the MGM release is fine with a grain-heavy, high bit rate presentation, Olive's blu-ray knocks it out of the park. Despite a handful of very tiny scratches and blemishes, this is a beautiful and crisp transfer that captures the versatile color schemes and the vibrant location footage.
As far as I can tell, the DTS-HD 5.1 track is the same one that's found on the MGM release. That's certainly a good thing, since this track shows incredible range and power, especially when it comes to representing the wall-to-wall songs that are now as iconic as they are invigorating.
Audio Commentary by Assistant Director Michael Hausman and Actor Treat Williams: Hausman and Williams mostly stick to the details of each day of shooting, as the scenes present themselves. However, there are a lot of quiet sections.
The Tribe Remembers: A lovely new documentary where most of the cast and crew talk about their experiences being cast, and how amazing, unique, and full of energy Forman's artistic process could be.
Making Chance Work: Legendary Broadway choreographer Twyla Tharp openly talks about the challenges of choreographing Hair for the on-location shoots, and how this approach made the dancing feel spontaneous.
Cutting Hair: Editors Lynzee Klingman and Stanley Warlow get into great detail about how the immense work to fluidly put together the incredible amount of footage fed into the musical numbers.
Hair Style: Production Designer Stuart Wurtzel talks about how he dressed sets to give them a lived-in and tactile feel.
Remembering Milos Forman: Director James Mangold (Logan) gives a touching tribute to how much his mentor Milos Forman's process helped form the visions for his films.
Forman fled the then-communist Czechoslovakia because he was too critical of the state, and found a unique place for himself as a director of films that are distinctly American. As his The People vs. Larry Flynt approaches the complexities of American freedom and diversity in a more intellectual way, an experience like Hair goes for a more visceral and cerebral examination. Forman uses abstract forms like dance and song to express the tension that the country was going through, and considering the tension we're in right now, will probably always go through.
When I was in film school, one of Forman's colleagues from his days as a filmmaker in his home country visited our class. He asked the audience why The People vs. Larry Flynt worked as well as did. When no one could come up with a clear answer, he replied "Because it was a film that was so American, only a European could have directed it". The same applies to Hair.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com