I have posted previously on the aesthetics of place, and of course it is also possible to discern an aesthetic of time. The look of films from the 20s, 30s, 40s through to the 80s is easily recognisable, although it is a little more difficult to precisely place films made in the last twenty years or so purely on style. Fashion trends today move so rapidly that something which in another era would have appeared dated merely looks quirky and idiosyncratic these days, and paradoxically has allowed for more of a timeless feel to more recent films. Or maybe not enough time has elapsed to recognise the ‘look’ for what it is.
Anyway, I happened to see a film the other night which I had last seen shortly after its release, and which made an impact on most would-be lawyers of my generation. The Paper Chase was made in 1973, and viewed from the perspective of nearly four decades on is unmistakably of its time. That’s possibly an understatement. The period feel of this film is so completely overwhelming that I can’t even begin to assess what I thought of it as a film after all these years, though others have been happy to award it many stars.
It’s all because of the hairstyles. Goodness, those hairstyles. I can’t think of any other film which portrays the horrors of 70s hair quite so well. The variety of style, for a start, is unequalled even today. With so much choice on offer, you would have thought someone somewhere might have got it right, but no. There was no such thing as good hair in the 70s. It was the time when hairdressers forgot how to cut, and people forgot how to style. Hairspray was out, but volumisers weren’t invented. And oh, how we suffered. No one looked good with 70s hair. No one. I looked at the young actors in the film, and felt relieved that at least they would have seen better days in the years to come. The sad thing is that a whole generation of 70s teenagers and young adults have photo albums of youth to look back on only to weep over. When I see the casual, beautiful, flattering shots of the youth of today posted on Facebook, I realise the 70s was an awful aesthetic blip in the history of mankind. The only era of youthful beauty truly ruined by bad hair.
Catch The Paper Chase once more if you can, and marvel at that hair. The photos I have posted don’t do justice to the awfulness of the hairstyles. You have to see for yourself.