Some Important Color Films

Notable uses of color in film include Sven Nykvist's (b. 1922) symphony of red and green in Viskningar och rop (Cries and Whispers, Ingmar Bergman, 1972, in Eastmancolor) and the sunset-lit palette Nykvist utilized in What's Eating Gilbert Grape (Lasse Hallstrom, 1993); Jean-Luc Godard's (b. 1930) primary-colored text blocks as part of the rhythmic design of Weekend (shot by Raoul Coutard in Eastmancolor, 1967); and the effects produced by the cinematographer Gordon Willis (working with designer Mel Bourne, decorators Mario Mazzola and Daniel Robert, costume designer Joel Schumacher, and makeup artist Fern Buchner) for Interiors (Woody Allen, 1978), in which a perfectly coordinated, subdued, even shackled bourgeois environment set out in a range of beige tones—costumes, walls, curtains, vases, complexions, shadows, everything—is suddenly disrupted after a matriarch's suicide by the appearance of the father's new girlfriend, dressed in explosive scarlet.

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Jacques Demy, 1964), was shot on Eastmancolor by Jean Rabier (b. 1927), with design by Bernard Evein. The little village of Cherbourg is configured as a grouping of tiny shops and apartments, alleys, corridors, and a garage. In virtually every setting, the walls are decorated with bizarre and supersaturated patterns and designs, often mixing brilliant red and yellow with brilliant lime green, purple, orange, and turquoise. There is a candy-shop quality to the images that perfectly matches the fairytale quality of the story and the lyrical quality of the dialogue, every word of which is sung to orchestral accompaniment. In the final sequence, which takes place in a winter snowfall and at night, red, blue, and yellow framed against the nocturnal blackness are the only colors that remain—as the former lovers discover one another again after many years and realize that their past is irretrievable. The boy, in fact, has become the owner of an Esso station, which is photographed to look like a giant toy garage. For The Ladies Man (Jerry Lewis, 1961), the set design of Ross Bellah and Hal Pereira, decorated by Sam Comer and James Payne, and shot in Technicolor by W. Wallace Kelley, features a giant boardinghouse in which nubile girls dressed by Edith Head in pastel pajamas wake up in variously colored rooms.

The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli, 1953) has a number of startling color sequences, in particular Fred Astaire's ''Put a Smile on Your Face'' dance routine. On a set designed by Preston Ames, Harry Jackson's Technicolor camera shoots a kaleidoscopic arcade with Astaire, in a light gray suit with royal blue socks, dancing his troubles away with a shoeshine man in a green Hawaiian shirt and hot fuchsia socks. In the celebrated ''Dancing in the Dark'' duet, Astaire and Cyd Charisse, both in elegant white against a vivid green-and-blue background of Central Park at twilight, move to Arthur Schwartz's music as the color of the set—not quite real, not quite fake—suspends and lulls us into a trance of engagement. In a stunning moment we see the horse that has pulled their carriage to this location pausing to drink from a fountain in which the water is sapphire blue—the blue of dreams, of pure wonder.

see also Cinematography; Lighting; Technology further reading

Balio, Tino. Grand Design: Hollywood as Modern Business Enterprise, 1930—1939. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

Bowser, Eileen. The Transformation of Cinema: 1907—1915. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

Buscombe, Edward. ''Sound and Color.'' In Movies and Methods: An Anthology, Vol. 2, edited by Bill Nichols, 83-91. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Fielding, Raymond. The Technique of Special Effects Cinematography. New York: Hastings House, 1968.

Gunning, Tom. ''Systematizing the Electric Message: Narrative Form, Gender, and Modernity in The Lonedale Operator." In American Cinema's Transitional Era: Audiences, Institutions, Practices, edited by Charlie Keil and Shelley Stamp, 15-50. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

Haines, Richard W. Technicolor Movies: The History of Dye Transfer Printing. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1993.

Musser, Charles. The Emergence ofCinema: The American Screen to 1907. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

Winston, Brian. ''A Whole Technology of Dyeing.'' Daedalus 114, no. 4 (Fall 1985): 105-123.

Murray Pomerance

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