Theories of Film: Special Topics in Film – Color Theory
133T | CCN: 77920
Instructor: Eileen Jones
In the introduction to Color: The Film Reader, Brian Price argues that until recently film studies scholars have suffered from “chromophobia,” neglecting to address in any comprehensive way “the centrality of color to the experience and technology of cinema”:
The neglect of color in film studies is a curious one. Color is not simply a choice a filmmaker makes at the level of film stock…[but] a constructive element of mise-en-scene, one that works alongside of lighting, sound, performance, camera movement, framing, and editing….[I]t is an element carefully considered by set designers, cinematographers and directors, all of whom must remain sensitive to the way in which color can create meaning, mood, sensation, and perceptual cues.
In this course we will examine basic color theory as it pertains to the visual arts in general and color theory as it pertains to the specific medium of film, as well as charting the historical development of color technology in film. We will also do case studies of filmmakers who have arguably worked as “color theorists” themselves, such as director Douglas Sirk in collaboration with cinematographer Russell Metty (All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, Imitation of Life), directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger with cinematographer Jack Cardiff (Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death), producer Walt Disney working with artists Mary Blair and Eyvind Earle (Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty), director Alfred Hitchcock with cinematographer Robert Burks (Rear Window, North by Northwest, Vertigo, The Birds, Marnie), directors Joel and Ethan Coen with cinematographer Roger Deakins (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?), director Wong Kar Wai with cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Chungking Express, Ashes of Time, In the Mood for Love) director Zhang Yimou with cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Hero), and director Quentin Tarantino with cinematographer Robert Richardson (Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds).