Turner Classic Movies has declared September an unofficial cinema history month. They are beginning a months-long series of screenings of The Story of Film, and showing a variety of movies alongside that series. The list is so rich that it has the quixotic effect of depressing the Siren; she cannot see it all, cannot even get a DVR big enough to hold it all.
The schedule prompts the Siren to go public with one of her deepest, most tenaciously held opinions:
Laver's Law applies to cinema.
Laver's Law was the creation of James Laver, an art historian and curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum, who helped create the field of fashion history as we know it today. His law is, as it should be, of the utmost elegant simplicity. In a book called Taste and Fashion (1937), he proposed that the way we regard fashions in clothing forms a predictable cycle over time. One item, such as a dress, will be regarded in a number of ways as the years roll on.
Here then the Siren offers illustrated examples of her own, using Laver's categories (although the Siren's allowing herself the privilege of rounding off in a couple of instances), based as usual on nothing more than her own whimsical brainwaves. This is how these films look to her; they may well look different to you, and if you want to play at home, have at it.
The point is that in just a few more years, these films may look different to everyone. Certain films are born great and stay that way; but canons are not immune from fashion. This year's whipping boy may be on my grandchildren's college syllabus. If the Siren has been caught dissing a treasured favorite, comfort yourself with the thought that time's winged chariot may yet run me off the road.
The first two are, obviously, not regarded as either indecent or shameless now:
Indecent: 10 years before its time
Peeping Tom (1960)
Shameless: 5 years before its time
Citizen Kane (1941)
Outré: 1 year before its time
Confession of a Nazi Spy (1939)
Smart: 'Current Fashion'
Upstream Color (2013) (The Siren herself thinks this one's going to date badly, but right now, it's as smart--in the sense of modish--as it gets.)
Dowdy: 1 year after its time
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Hideous: 10 years after its time
Love Actually (2003)
Ridiculous: 20 years after its time
Amusing: 30 years after its time
Return of the Jedi (1983)
Quaint: 50 years after its time
How the West Was Won (1963)
Charming: 70 years after its time
The More the Merrier (1943)
Romantic: 100 years after its time
Beautiful: 150 years after its time
(Time-wise, this is a major cheat...but the Siren is willing to bet that this will still be beautiful in 2045.)