"Hollywood Hair" by Juliet Snowden is a labor of love, a portrait of a time and place that, by the nature of its execution, becomes a timeless story about Hollywood, about Los Angeles, and about what it means to be human.
This is a documentary about a now-gone hair salon on Hollywood Boulevard, and about the disparate group of characters that convened there -- men and women that came together in the most incredible way human beings can come together, and connect; by building community, and friendship.
At the center of the film is Tony Morales, who was the proprietor of this little salon. Tony is a humble man, a simple man, who has made a life out of this little place that he calls his own.
Having lost most of the things in his life, Tony forged a family out of the characters that convened at his salon. And oh boy, are they characters -- people who pop on the screen, larger than life; characters that would seem outrageous and unbelievable if this were a scripted narrative.
To touch on their stories here would take away from the experience of hearing, and watching them, tell us their stories themselves -- but let me just say that they are stories full of pain, but also full of love, and humor -- the lunacy and sorrow that makes up the daily fabric of our lives.
One of my favorite moments in the documentary is when one of the patrons reiterates Tony Morales' motto, in regard to the strange and beautiful creatures that inhabit his world: "I can't change them, but I can give them a cup of coffee." What simplicity, what purity of existence. This is the heart of Juliet Snowden's documentary.
From a creative standpoint, I admired Snowden's choice to let the people speak for themselves, and tell their own story instead of having narration, or title cards giving us information, etc.
That was smart, because they clearly make the film; but also, by making this choice, and by the choices she made in rhythm and narrative, I felt like we were getting a clear picture of the filmmaker, the woman behind the camera –- and what it is that inspires her, and moves her. What makes her laugh, what makes her cry.
Along with her husband and constant collaborator Stiles White (who is a producer on "Hollywood Hair" and participated in getting many of the interviews), Juliet Snowden has gone on to have a successful career as a working writer in Hollywood, having co-scripted the films BOOGEYMAN, KNOWING, summer 2012's horror hit THE POSSESSION, and an upcoming film based on the popular "Ouija" board game -- but this documentary is a snapshot and a love letter of a time when she came out to Los Angeles, to put down her roots and find a place to call home.
"Hollywood Hair" is full of life, and vigor, and has that timelessness that is rarely found in documentary cinema, which seems so much to be of a current moment. This is not that.
"Hollywood Hair" has a place, a solid one, in the annals of Hollywood lore, and I cannot wait for people to discover it, in the near future, and long beyond.