John Cassavetes - The Haircut
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Published on Mar 26, 2012
The Haircut (Tamar Simon Hoffs, 1982) A true gem of a film ... you either get it or you don't. If you get it, you never forget it. For a better quality video pick up a copy of Tamar Hoff's "The Allnighter" on DVD, it includes "The Haircut" as a bonus feature.
The Haircut also features a short performance by 'The Bangs' a predecessor to the all-girl group 'The Bangles'
"It's spare and lyrical and funny and profane and painful. It's Cassavetes.
And there's a reason: I recall how we all didn't get him at first. He was an actor, not a director. Was he making home movies? Why was there all that ... disconnection? The holding back, the pauses, the erasures! Very un-studio. But actors got it right away. They lined up to work for Cassavetes for scale. They knew what he was erasing. The act. The boiled cabbage acting of the studios. Because, real life has many secrets. (excerpt from Swimming to Cassavetes by Ben Pleasants).
In the Spring of 1982, he (cassavetes) spent a long weekend acting in a twenty-minute student film, The Haircut, written and directed by a UCLA film student, Tamar Simon Hoffs. Hoffs originally wanted Ben Gazzara to star in it (since his daughter Elizabeth was producing the film and working on the crew); but Gazzara wasn't free. When he asked Cassavetes if he would take his place, to Hoff's surprise, Cassavetes accepted as a favor to Elizabeth. The result is a charming, zany fantasy, a performance piece in a barbershop. (excerpt from Carney's Cassavetes on Cassavetes)
Tamar Simon Hoffs had twenty four hours with John Cassavetes as a young director when she was studying directing at AFI. Twenty-four hours and in that time she did one of the greatest films Cassavetes ever starred in. The awkward silences and the hard pauses. She watched and let the camera roll. The film was The Haircut. Twenty-two minutes long. It's from her script, not the Ring Lardner short story. It's won a number of awards. It's how she got Malcolm McDowell interested in her film, Red Roses and Petrol in the first place. She charmed him with her writing. It's how she got to cut John Cassavete's hair as a beginning director in her first film, The Haircut. Cassavetes read the script and loved the idea of doing a little film. A two-reeler. A short.
"He gave me twenty-four hours with total dedication and all his majesty as an actor and a director," she told me. "And he's out there." She pointed beyond her pool. I'm not getting it.
"'I'm yours for twenty-four hours," he said. "Till the limo picks me up and takes me back to the studio." She was a student then and she knew how to listen. He liked her language, the way she set up the scenes, the humor of it. He liked the idea that he could play with what she wrote. And there were good supporting actors. The coach from Cheers is the barber. The story is about the haircut of a lifetime for a big shot in the music business.
As he acted, or stripped away the actor's tricks, Cassavetes taught her what a director should be. How to look for the moment to shut up and let the actor work. How to listen for what was inside the face of a human being giving what he really is. How to wait for the pauses that are true to life.
They all knew they had something magical in twenty-four hours. Susanna Hoffs, The Bangle who was only a Bang was in it. Her mother wanted to take her out, but Cassavetes loved it for its realness.
When it was done and he had given everything he could give, John Cassavetes stood in the street and stripped off his suit, shirt, and shoes, dropping into the back seat of the limo to return to the studio in his shorts.
(excerpt from Swimming to Cassavetes by Ben Pleasants)
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