… continuing Color.
I left as a last example the movie 13 Assassins by Takashi Miike and Nobuyasu Kita because, even though it was a market success, the movie itself and how it looks is a conundrum.
The movie is set in 1840, but chromatic and image wise, there isn’t a single detail of the post-production, color correction or even art color selection, that might trigger in the audience that they’re watching the era.
Other than the theme, characters and the action, the movie could have happened 160 years, 300 years or 80 years ago in Japan. And that’s Miike’s biggest weapon in the movie. Although it is a semi-historical, metaphorical recount of what happened in feudal Japan at the time, it is as present as the director.
It was shot in 35mm but the image is so clean and well lit, that at times it looks like it is a digital capture of a documentary (filmed with our present technology) set in 1840.
Blood is cold and visually dissipated, the flames are yellowish but dim, and the moonlight a strangely hued soft white/blue. The entire environment is surrounded by the browns, greys and blacks of wood, kimonos and earth/soot.
Even though it is an extremely violent and sometimes morally aggressive film, the image is so raw that one is connected to it and the social and moral struggle survived by the 13 samurai is almost as if it is lived within the audience, as though the viewer is inside what is happening.
This feeling of connectedness, of association of reality to a projected image is brilliantly achieved through the rawness of the image and the appeal and calmness of the soothing and expertly distributed browns and greys of the movie.
Asian films have been correcting their color, image and choosing their stock since there’s been film in the area. Kurosawa’s beautiful black and white films were so well shot that some of them, almost seemed like colors would gush out on the screen if the viewer paid enough attention.
Yimou and Woo and Wong Kar Wai are long purporters of the control and manipulation of the visual style of what is presented in the screen and are World Renown for it.
But there are bad and sometimes wrong examples of films that use and abuse color correction and its effect on the audience to such an effect, that the films themselves, start becoming anecdotal, if not completely shun by the public.
Like it was said before, like these movies, a lot of others could have been selected, but let me use these 6 examples to capture a broader sense of the downfalls of a sometimes broad, if not, uninformed approach in color for film.
Lets start with The Storm Warriors.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some great visuals and fight scenes in Storm Warriors. But there’s something wrong on screen.
The color adjustments are done so as to stylise the film, but end up making it far from coherent. Some of the corrections on the blues and greys of the film, give them such a plasticky look that a great percentage of the costumes not only seem fake, but they look extremely flimsy.
The highlights and shadows vary from scene to scene, depending on the fight setup presented (although they’re consistent in an overall sense, the small variations in color for similar clothes presented in different setups, at times, is bothersome) and skin tones drastically change – their saturation constantly depends on the light and clothes on the scene, making the characters always seem “unnatural” and in essence impossible to empathize with.
As an extremely stylized film, Storm Warriors at times is brilliant (the fight scenes in the water, the supper slow-motion scenes in the mountains for example), but ends up suffering too much from the chromatic decisions it presents (the golds, browns and blues are at times interesting, but end up creating pretentious characters, instead of emphasizing their ambitions and strength).
Being too realistic at times, doesn’t give the viewers a consistency in interpretation that then is completely overthrown by the surreality of some shots.
It is based on a comic book novel, and maybe it should have gone a bit further into the extreme showcase of a comic book theatricality in a chromatic and visual sense not holding back (as an example we have Sin City, Mistery Men and/or the Batman series) its inherent visual spectrum to give way to a realistic/dramatic value that might not be necessary for such a stylized film.