America’s Color Grading Mania and its Influence Over the World VI

… continuing Color.

I will continue the analysis of very well developed Color Corrected Movies in the Asian market, concentrating in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Korea.

Detective Dee as an example is a tough sell. The movie was visually developed by one of the strongest and most prolific and esthetically consistant directors in Asia (if not the World) and had the help of not one, but two, very experienced Directors of Photography working in Hong Kong/China and as such, it would be natural to see in the movie a homogeneous and strictly planned visual style, but this, as anything in the film-making universe, has more to it.

The chromatic reality of the film is largely dependent on diffracted and blended golds and oranges, making the image, more often than not, almost glimmer with shine and glitter. The earth tones are colder and blander than usual and the blues and black, almost simultaneously converge into each other. Whites and greys are clean and controlled influences in the picture and when existent, red takes over the screen with its ultra saturated presence.

Light seems to fade in the frame and it looks effortless and shadows are almost unapparent, this makes everything look and feel as though we were inside an impressionistic pastel painting (here an amazing mastery over the “digital” look captured by the RedOne but ultimately coded into what almost seems to have been shot in film) and detach ourselves from the time and place in which the movie is portrayed, giving total confidence in the creators of the film to take us through this crazy adventure film.

Under the Hawthorne Tree also beautifully masters the control over the color and the capture used to make the film, but it is radically different to Detective Dee in terms of chromatic frames.

Hawthorne Tree, even though color is beautifully captured during the film, is extremely toned down (comparing to other Zhang Yimou films), sometimes tonally almost resembling a 40’s/50’s documentary in terms of the momentary desaturation of some scenes (this helps in following the emotional pull created between the couple and hence elevate our connections to the two main characters), yellows have a golden quality to them and the browns, when apparent, flood the screen as though they weren’t such a commonly misperceived color. Green’s, greys and dark colors (especially dark blues, greens and blacks) blend each other, making it look like even thought the fields seem fertile, something is apparently wrong with the countryside. Even though its momentarily romantic, there’s a certain irreverence under the surface and this inconspicuous color manipulation, throughout the movie, clearly presents it visually in the screen (there are fertile and arid terrains, a beautiful dichotomy for the visually guided).

As a great example of a complete overhaul of the image in a chromatic sense in Asian movies of present day filmmaking is The Stool Pigeon a 2010 Hong Kong production that even though it roots itself in present day reality (the colors, although pulled to, at times, a controlled surreality, are clearly colors that everyone sees and commonly associates to our day to day lives), the image varies and mutates all throughout the movie.

There are scenes with a washed out look, almost at a pasteled kodachrome film stock quality, making it look like something is unsafe, unfamiliar, unreal. There are moments were the lights are bright and intense, bringing a strong color profile to the characters in the screen (fluorescent lighting bring out the whiteness of the faces and in locations, the saturated blues), others are unsaturated and almost chromatically nonexistent.

Depending on the moment of the film, the color seems to shift to capture the character’s voyage but, amazingly, it is done so consistently that, at a certain point of the movie (around the 20 minute mark) it becomes apparent that the filmmaker has created a stylized heterogeneous but extremely well formatted movie.

Monga and The Man from Nowhere, in terms of the construction of the frames in their movies is clearly at a different level from the previous examples, not as weaker movies but, as examples of what filmmakers strive to present as reliable and visually rooted in reality color corrected images. Both movies make the audience follow violence, friendship, betrayal and other hard to swallow themes, but instead of going to a artistic/differentiated poetic imagery composition, they both present what is happening as real, as we see it, as it is in our daily lives.

Punctually – lights, color, shadows, darks and lighter parts of the images seem too defined and sharp and these variations make the audience feel as though they are inside the images, inside what is happening, clearly being guided into adopting if not completely assimilating the story into their own existence. We are inside the world of the moving picture. The high definition, high quality, high detail picture, every one has gotten used too from capturing real moments with their phones, cameras, etc.

The Man from Nowhere makes a voyage from very dark lighting and hard shadows to a certain more relaxed, more human imagery towards the end, and Monga cleverly does the opposite in its balanced visual composition, becoming gradually more violent, more imbued with stronger, bolder visuals (in Man, although violence becomes all that we see in the screen, the character is portrayed as going to an extreme in his reality to save his friend, making us feel connected to him, in Monga, the opposite is what is true), controlling its colors and making us watch the decay of the images in front of us (the lighting doesn’t change but its warmer coloring when yellow and cooler tones when white are gradually more noticeable).

Color Continued…

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