Chances are you don’t recognize the name Jay Sebring. But I guarantee you know who he was. The title subject of this fascinating documentary — “Jay Sebring… Cutting to the Truth” — was director Anthony DiMaria’s uncle. He was also a pioneer, back in the 1960’s, for men’s hair styling. Sebring was the personal stylist to Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra and dozens more of Hollywood’s biggest film, TV and music stars.
He was also one of six people, on Aug. 8 1969, killed in the infamous Manson Murders. Everyone remembers victim Sharon Tate. Sebring is one of the other five. DiMaria’s goal with the film is to inform the world that his uncle was more than just one of “the others”. Along the way he also attempts to set the record straight about what really happened on that fateful, horrific night.
“Cutting to the Truth” is tough to enjoy, but easy to admire. DiMaria has compiled an impressive amount of footage (interviews span more than a decade) and the edits are vigorous. It’s no surprise the doc has taken this long to complete — as it had to be both a technically and emotionally challenging journey.
DiMaria significantly bounces and forth through Sebring’s timeline — from childhood to career success to celebrity status. There’s a lot of information to process, but it all has a purpose.
In the days following the murders Sebring’s reputation and lifestyle were attacked by the headline-thirsty press. One of DiMaria’s most admirable accomplishments with “Cutting to the Truth” is clearing his uncle’s name — specifically when it comes to his relationship with Tate and his actions the night of the murders. The director’s hatred of the media is evident and valid.
Interviews with Quentin Tarantino (just before filming “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), Robert Wagner, Quincy Jones and the late Dennis Hopper add insight. Rare photos, video and police interviews, including one with Tate’s husband, director Roman Polanski are chilling.
This personal passion project is a major achievement. DiMaria emphasizes throughout how the public, even after all these years, is still obsessed with Charles Manson and the Manson Murders. Even if you’re not, this film is a must-watch and impossible to ignore.
LCJ GRADE: B+
Running Time: 91 min.