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Hair: Let the Sun Shine In - documentary DVD / arthouse DVD review
HAIR: LET THE SUN SHINE IN Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Keith Carradine, Milos Forman, Galt McDermot, Melba Moore, James Rado
Directors: Wolfgang Held, Pola Rapaport   Studio: Alive Mind
DVD release: 09 December 2008   Runtime: 115 min. (1 disc)
Format: Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio tracks (English - Dolby Digital), LA-based actors in classic theatre exercises, Rehearsal scenes w/ HAIR director Tom O'Horgan, Interview (Ben Vereen, dir. Milos Forman, author/lyricist James Rado)

Hair: Let the Sun Shine In examines the phenomenon of the tribal love rock musical Hair. Gerome Ragni and James Rado wrote the play with musician Galt MacDermot. If you're unfamiliar, come out from under your rock, my friend, and know this: Hair was a sensation that affected the world in the late 1960s. It blew like a warm wind over the earth and let at least a little sun shine in.

I've never seen the play, but so much of it has seeped into my mind just by living through the times of its strongest influence. The songs were everywhere - Hair, Let the Sun Shine In, Good Morning Starshine, Easy to Be Hard. We've all heard them, and they've been absorbed into the mainstream in the form of shampoo commercials and the like. What you can't get from the detergent commercials is the communal feeling of love that was shared by so many who performed in Hair. You can still see it in their eyes. They were a tribe, and that was the feeling the creators hoped to get across to their audience. Indeed, they hoped to get the audience to join the tribe as well: all races, genders, backgrounds - we're all children of the same Mother Earth.

It was the late 1960s, and Vietnam was the focus of their efforts. The tribe wanted to get the U.S. out of 'Nam. Peace, love, and sharing seemed like a good idea, and as the age of Aquarius was dawning, it seemed possible to get behind this perceived force of good that came with it and get the nation - all nations - to love one another. The use of LSD, peyote and marijuana helped to expand the minds of the hippie culture and hopefully help to usher in this age of peace and unity.

The film talks to many people who worked on the play and whose lives were changed by it. James Rado and Galt MacDermot are interviewed, along with Ben Vereen, Melba Moore, Milos Forman, Keith Carradine, and more. They each have much to share about their experiences, and most had a positive experience and recognized that maybe they did change some attitudes of those who came to the play. Some outsiders at the time were brought to violence by the tribe and the culture of the time. Hair seemed a good focal point for their rejection. Cast member Jonathon Johnson lost his wife and daughter to a hotel fire suspected to be caused by arson.

Hair: Let the Sun Shine In opens a window onto the past, a beautiful window open to a mostly sunny day. We can see the beauty, the optimism, the pain and the joy; we also see how the ideas of utopia fall apart due to human failings of selfishness and jealousy. It's a heartbreaking and heartwarming look at a bygone era that may never see a reawakening, though I wish it would. We could use it right now. The Age of Aquarius is supposed to last 2,160 years, so maybe there's a chance.

The extra features include extra and extended interviews, plus a bit more about the film, which isn't touched upon too heavily in the main feature.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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