HAIR - Uptown, Marlow 2, AMC's Carrollton 6, Springfield Twin, Loehmann's Plaza, Roth's Parkway 2 and 3.

Distance and wit have been added to the energy of "Hair," the quintessential '60s musical, for its film appearance in the '70s. There now is even mild skepticism of the counter-culture, and mild tolerance of the straight.

But the surprising added ingredient is art, a particularly cinematic and choreographic artistry that gives the film the simplicity and strength of a story ballet. Through movement - of bodies, both individually and in choruses, and of the camera, throught crowds and landscapes - the clashing of middle-class subcultures no longer seems, in the next decade, as tawdry and trite as a recently finished love affair. It has been turned into fresh American folklore.

Twyla Tharp did the choreography of dance sequences, but the direction, by Milos Froman, takes the entire film into the realm of dance, rather than drama, wher the story is visual, rather than verbal. The exuberant movements of a band of Central Park hippies provides a bouncing contrast to the studied patterns of straight society and the rigid lines of military movement.

The pictorial case for the counterculture is simply that it is self-mocking and spontaneous, unlike society with its silly pretentions and unlike the military, which does permanent harm. Its good-natured, childish frolicking is immensely appealing.

The case against childishness is made, too, however. Two women stunningly represent the straight support services necessary for such madcap freedom: Cheryl Barnes, as the girlfriend from one hippie's previous life, left behind to rear their child, and Antonia Rey, as the mother of another, whose savings bail them out of their pranks. Their dignity trivializes the baby dimpling of Annie Golden, as a hippie girl, and the baby pouting of Beverly D'Angelo, as a debutante recruit.

And the young hero, a cowboy waylaid on his way to the Army, whom John Savage plays like a ballet prince torn between the charms of woods and court, stays basically true to his sense of responsibility. When the hippie leader, played by Treat Williams as a shaggy Pan, cuts his hair to mock soldierhood, he is unable to reverse his progress into that world, with its worst consequences. The hero, whose hair is neither wild nor shorn, but trim, is spared by fate.

It is unfortunate that many of the funny lyrics are lost through indistinct diction, but the film is rich with visual anctics. Prancing Park Police horses echo the steps of the dancers, the feet of draft-broad examiners high-step under the table, a military plane swallows lines of soldiers and spits out equally neat lines of tombstones.

Most of the film is shot outdoors, in parks, deserts and military bases, giving it a wide American sweep. If it had pretened to represent a society deeply split by the momentary conflicts between middle-class society and its children, it would have been ridiculous; but as the symbolic separation of the innocent and agressive aspects of the American character, it becomes important.