Initial Ideas for Photocinema/ Analysis of some Colour Theory

With a late start to this project, using most of my first week to finish up work from my previous projects, a breakup on the Friday night and a massive drop in my mental health over the weekend, this project has not started off on the best note. Nonetheless, a talk/tutorial with Mark today (Monday 16th October) has set me straight; he told me not to worry about catching up, instead putting all efforts into this project with the limited time left.

With a bit of research conducted into the ideas of colour theory and some film posters relating to that, my  initial ideas were to look at automatic writing as a starting point, to develop a frm of narrative (although automatic writing stems from surrealism, abstraction/experimentalism and therefore would not provide that much of a ‘story’) and to ultimately work from that. In my first idealised thinking process I wrote down that I like the ‘soft, delicate, lace, overexposed’ aesthetic, with the ‘cinemagraphic-esque’ scene from La Jetee coming to mind (the one scene that shows her blinking, the only scene that includes movement). I also have ‘aesthetic, Harry Styles cover’ just at the top of my page, so I assume this seems to relate to that.

I started some research into colour palettes of certain films that I enjoyed, both for the narrative and for the aesthetic and cinematography and found however, that saying I liked the soft and overexposed, pale lighting and mood to a scene, the actual evidence of films I wrote down seem to prove otherwise.
This was interesting to me, as I found myself looking at the validity of influence from film and photographers within my own work and seeking to analyse how what I enjoyed watching seemed to be different from what I enjoy creating. But in a similar sense, I also realised that these films seemed to be at the more, what you would call ‘artsy’ side of the spectrum, indie films that have some time or another had some kind of artistic following from fans who not only enjoyed the film, as a film, but also as a piece of art.

Films such as Her by Spike Jonze, cinematographer, Hoyte van Hoytema an iconic colour palette, characterised by a muted and chromatic tonal brilliance is decribed here by Durga Chew-Bose for Hazlitt.net:

‘What mostly comes to mind when I think of Her, though, is how the movie uses colors (in setting, costume, and temper), deploying them with a manipulative brilliance—as if I were a teenager once again and the film my mood ring. Pale purples and caramel browns. Sage. Putty and ecru. O’Keeffe reds and Michael Mann blues. Rothko Raspberry. Creamy whites like blanched almonds. Pastels the shade of sea urchins and sand dollars, as if L.A. in the future is Atlantis—washed-up and sun-speckled. And yet, Her never appears too tailored or too dear’.

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Original source unknown, found on Pinterest

She names the article ‘Lonely Palette: The Economy of Colour in Spike Jonze’s Her’ she calls the palette ‘lonely’, later admitting ‘his world is one that looks trapped in the past, yet seems impatient to move forward’ perhaps pointing towards the costume design that is almost built upon past trends, using a collection of colour tones that appear muted and set in a romanticised and nostalgic past of a ‘classic love story’ and juxtaposing it with the modern technology of an AI, a nod towards perhaps a not so far away future. She sums up my feelings on this film perfectly with this one sentence

More than most films, the chromatic design of Her accommodates the side of us that indulges in sad songs, or that familiar and melancholic scenario we play over and over in our heads when, say, sitting shotgun in a car on our way to the airport’.

Link to Durga’s full article

Other films I looked at were Moonrise Kingdom, famous for Wes Anderson’s distinct visual and narrative style, often collaborating with cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman, Submarine, with cinematographer Erik Wilson, Richard Ayoade’s cinema/directorial debut and of course, La La Land and Amelie.

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Whilst Her, Moonrise Kingdom and La La Land used colour as a feature, using colour theory to explore foreshadowing, an example in La La Land: using the green illuminated curtain behind Sebastian and Mia in the ‘City of Stars’ singing scene in Sebastian’s apartment to a) make the audience uneasy and b) to use connections to greens connotations of ambition, wealth, and jealousy to evoke a sense of forshadowing that the audience will understand when it comes to the end of the film, Amelie uses colour in a much more overstated way.
Throughout Amelie, colour is not used sparingly, every scene is colourgraded with a warm and slightly yellow tone, very dark blacks are used, and whites again, have a warm, almost sickly yellow hue.

So in essence, exploring just a few films, you can see how differently colour can be used, especially in a broad sense, or the opposite, in a very specific sense. A film to mention for that category is of course, Schindler’s List, an extraordinary use of colour and a prime example of a filmmaker manipulating colour to their finest ability.

Of course, this leaves me with the question of ‘do I use a strong sense of colour within my work, or use a lack of it to enhance the ones I want to bring forward?’ 

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