Colour in Film
To bleed or to block, that is the question. In painting, of course there is a clear difference between Mondrian and Jackson Pollock, a very clear difference between Kuwayama and Kandinsky. Pollock and Kandinsky usually bleed; Mondrian and Kuwayama usually block. Pollock and Kandinsky allow their colours to drip in to each other as the line completely disappears into the hazard of hues. Mondrian and Kuwayama with their blocks of colour insist on the rigour of geometry. One reason why we can make these claims in the context of art is that the image does not move, no matter if Pollock and Kandinsky's work might synesthetically suggest the frenzy of Jazz, and Mondrian and Kuwayama minimalist music. But how does this work in the context of the moving image, in cinema? If bleeding or blocking can be discerned so clearly in the still image, can we apply similar principles to film? Who are the Mondrians and Kuwayamas of cinema; who the Pollocks and Kandinsksys? Who bleeds and who blocks, taking into account nevertheless a pertinent claim made by Andre Bazin in 'The Ontology of the Film Image': "photography will long remain the inferior of painting in the reproduction of colour." After all, the painter chooses directly from the palette, filmmakers before digital cinema would still have to accept the vagaries of lab production.
For all that, some key filmmakers have done astonishing things with colour, especially with the two distinctive approaches we have suggested that are centrally available to them, and we will here propose a few directorial examples of each. Kubrick, Antonioni, Bergman and Godard, block; Scorsese, Fassbinder, Roeg, Lynch and Wong Kar Wai bleed. We may accept that the categories are much harder to ascertain in film partly because the films attends to narrative elements that mean they cannot attend so rigidly to form; partly that by the very nature of movement the blocking will often be likely to indicate a degree of bleeding. Cognitive film theorist, Gregory Currie addresses similarities between film and art when he quotes Richard Wollheim's ideas on the latter, and the difference between representing what is in the image and showing what is of the image. "Depictive representations are those where we see the depicted thing in the representation: we see the man in the painting, we see the woman in the movie image. Wollheim, to whom we owe the idea of seeing-in and the claim that this is the key to understanding depictive representation, thought that seeing-in is marked by its special character of twofoldness, or 'simultaneous attention to what is seen and to the features of the medium.'" ('Bergman and the Film Image') Currie discusses Wollheim's twofoldness resting on what the image represents and what at the same time is shown aesthetically, within the medium itself. Wollheim sees that we "marvel endlessly at the way in which line or brushstroke or expanse of colour is exploited to render effects or establish analogies that can only be identified representationally." Currie's point is to say that occasionally in film this twofoldness becomes separated: that the image no longer represents what is within it, but separates itself from the representation altogether. "In the final shot from A Passion we see something that ought to count as an instance of twofoldness, but it is not of the kind Wollheim has in mind with his talk of marks that create effects to be identified representationally (he means, pretty obviously, depictive representation here)." Currie reckons, "in seeing this shot we are aware of what is depicted, and of a feature of the depictive surface: its visible grain. But in this case the marks we are aware of are not identified representationally; the marks on the image surface do not represent anything." Currie tells us that the image becomes grainy as the central character in Ingmar Bergman's film, played by Max von Sydow, becomes indistinct as the image loses its depictive function and becomes pure form. Like much experimental cinema, like Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop where at the end of the film the celluloid catches fire, this is non-depictive filmmaking.
In any film we can concentrate on the properties over the depictions. It is only rarely that films insist we see the properties over the depictions. What interests us here are films that expect us to attend to their depictive dimension while not at all ignoring their narrative function. When Antonioni in Blow Up has Thomas entering the park in London we can describe it exactly thus, as we cannot offer narrative description to describe a Pollock or a Mondrian. To exaggerate the blocking in Antonioni's work would be to ignore the narrative dimension to which the film constantly attends. Much of the confusion in Antonioni's cinema rests on this difficulty. if it were simply abstract we needn't try to comprehend it; it would be enough to remark on it. In the painterly context, it would of course nevertheless be an elevated remark as comments are made on the potential complexity of the colour field, of Mondrian's interest in looking at the history of colour in painting and making colour the painting. If artists like Van Gogh and Cezanne could post-impressionistically emphasise the colour after the impressionists collapsed the line, then Mondrian brings back the line through the colour. We would need to understand why Mondrian's intervention was important, but we would not need to comprehend it as we would need to comprehend Antonioni's work: there is in Mondrian no narrative dimension, nor pro-filmic aspect that requires that comprehension.
We offer the above to make clear we are not interested in applying the laws of art to the rules of cinema, and thus arriving too hastily at examples of bleeding and blocking. Whether cinema happens to be as valid an art form as painting will depend partly on whether one sees an art form at its most advanced through the minimum number of variables available or the optimum number. When theorist Rudolph Armheim, interested in various arts, insisted that cinema was an art form partly through its exclusionary nature (through remaining black and white and resisting the coming of sound), he was also limiting the number of variables available to it. As Dudley Andrew says: "Arnheim's is necessarily a negative theory based as it is upon a notion of suppression: we must suppress the filmic process of representation in favour of the artistic process of expression." (The Major Film Theories) Our argument might be the more film attends to the manifold properties it comes into contact with, the more it becomes an art form. This wouldn't make it a better art form than painting, just as we don't believe it becomes a worse one because it has so many elements it can attend to. The filmmaker's art rests in opening up or narrowing down those possibilities. The art doesn't reside in Arnheim's a priori insistence that cinema should not evolve to incorporate sound and colour (and thus fall too easily into the trap of resembling reality), but that out of the many choices available to it as something close to a Gesamtkunstwerk (a total art work), it must choose. The comprehension from the viewer's perspective often comes out of understanding these complex variables. If we were too readily willing to equate painting and film, to indicate bleeders and blockers as direct analogy, film would lose out, and the idea of the moving image would be contained by the fixity of the painterly frame.
Nevertheless, there appears to be a difference between Scorsese's use of colour in Taxi Driver and Godard's adoption of it in Made in USA and Le mepris. At the beginning of Taxi Driver, the rain on the car window turns the colours into a smear of reds, whites, blues and yellows. In Mean Streets when Charlie prays at the altar he looks up at the clash of colours of the various Marys. In Made in USA, the credit sequence consists of titles offered in red, blue and white, colours of the French flag equally blocked. In Le mepris, a lengthy scene shows Bridget Bardot and Michel Piccoli arguing in an apartment made up of white walls, red and blue furniture and fittings. In Scorsese's work, colour creates a sense of agitation and movement; in Godard's the image usually indicates if not quite stillness then distance. Godard's approach to colour allows for analytic remove; Scorsese searches out an impressionistic immediacy. We can see the difference evident in Godard's statement that when asked why there was so much blood in Pierrot le fou he could say "not blood, red." Scorsese's work quite literally bleeds, with the oozing of blood central to Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Good Fellas and Casino and of course his early short, The Big Shave, where a man takes a razor to his beard and then to his throat. When we see blood everywhere in Godard's traffic jam scene in Weekend, we do not react as we do to the blood-letting in a Scorsese film. Colour is an analytic tool in Godard; part of the director's interest in realism in Scorsese. But more importantly it is part of Scorsese's aesthetic restlessness as he manages to convey a mindest that suggests man in agitative competition with other men. If Scorsese's work is frequently about rising to the top, this has little to do with the cold ambitions of corporate America, but instead with the little man who wants to become a bigger one. A Scorsese character seeks credence more than power, and the more credence they seek the higher up the social scale they may get. However, the social scale seems like a weak force next to the aggression within the body that insistently bloodlets. Scorsese's interest in colour reflects this as he uses red to convey chaos rather than control. Near the end of The Big Shave, the film cuts to the man's chest as blood bleeds down it as if the film frame itself is bleeding, before the film concludes on a red frame. In a brief article in Decider, Olivia Armstrong works through a series of images from Scorsese's work as she insists "the director, who refuses to discriminate against any one genre, has used the color red as a way to convey nuances in human emotion, establish deeper relationships between characters, comment on religion, and even as a foreshadowing device ."
Scorsese's red, though, is very different from Godard's not only because Scorsese works vividly with the immediacy of violence just as Godard distances us from it, but also because Scorsese allows his reds to become part of a clash of colour that dissolves the firmness of line. When we look at the apartments in Scorsese films like Good Fellas and Casino, Scorsese adds to the violence of the situation by the mess of colours he utilises. In the scene in Casino where Ace (Robert De Niro) drags Ginger (Sharon Stone) through the apartment by the hair, her dress is a visual swirl, the walls restless with colours and shapes. When in Good Fellas Karen (Lauren Bracco) introduces friends to her new home, it is aggression as home decoration. The colours look like they are at war with each other; as if part of Scorsese's greatness as a filmmaker doesn't only lie in the violence he creates between humans, but between objects also. In a fascinating interview with Mark Cousins for the BBC's Moviedrome, David Lynch proposed a one-to-ten-scale for slowness and speed within the mise-en-scene, within a room. "A really intricately designed, decorative room, is pretty disturbing...a busy room and a person fight each other." Scorsese pushes people and mise-en-scene to a frequent ten but we shouldn't underestimate how much this has to do with the way a room is designed; it isn't only about the aggression between humans.
If Scorsese ups the violence to generate an intense disquiet between humans and between objects, Antonioni seeks even more than Godard to neutralise the scene, to create a very low-level of agitation and a high level of meditation. Antonioni's films are as quiet as Scorsese's are loud, but this needn't rest exclusively on the sound design; it also resides in the set design as Antonioni can create a paradoxical hush of images. In the scene in Red Desert where Richard Harris and Giuliana (Monica Vitti) talk, in the shop she has bought, the empty walls help generate empty silences. The words they speak fall into the quiet the room invokes as Antonioni gives proper cinematic value to the difficulty humans often have with communication. Scorsese's characters have no problem communicating; they have problems keeping the conversations calm enough to avoid descending into violence. The American director's films are full of people shooting the breeze but also shooting others, exemplified in the scene in Good Fellas when Joe Pesci blows his top and blows away a waiter's toe. On the one hand, he is impressing his mates; on the other oppressing anyone who doesn't deserve his credence as the waiter looks like he could be frightened to death without Pesci shooting him to boot, so to speak. Violence here is just another act of hyperbole, an example of someone shooting his mouth off but with a gun to hand.
Antonioni looks at humans as not at all violent creatures, no matter the violence that occasionally attends his work: the murdered body found in Blow Up; the executions in The Passenger. Few would invoke either moment as a key scene in each of these films. Much more important would be Thomas blowing up the photograph that has captured the murder, finding the more he blows it up, the more he loses the action in the grain. In The Passenger it might be the moment when the rebel leader in Africa wants to turn the camera on David Locke (Jack Nicholson) and get the reporter to question his own presuppositions.
Communication in Antonioni's films is difficult partly because meaning is unsure. In Scorsese's work meaning is sure in that most of the characters want the same things and will do violence unto each other to get them. We wouldn't want to simplify Scorsese's work (especially Taxi Driver and Raging Bull), but alienation would always be a sub-category in Scorsese's cinema and thus why agitation is the thing. The mise-en-scene doesn't symbolise the violence, in Lynchian terms it is violent. Antonioni's mise-en-scene isn't violent, it is alienating. The blocks of colour separate things out rather than make them collide, capturing an aspect of the relationship between people. All men are islands in Antonioni's work, and colour is one of the ways to show this belief. When Thomas photographs a model alone in his studio he does so against a charcoal background, a block of colour that emphasises the lack of emotion between the two of them as Thomas fakes the sexual in an odd combination of the predatory and the professional. Thomas manages to offer all the power of seduction without any of the pleasure in its possibility. It is an abusive relationship, we might feel, even if no abuse as such takes place. In a later scene with two young model hopefuls, he goes through the motions without accessing the emotions. In this earlier sequence he doesn't sleep with the model; he just photographs her. In the later scene, he sleeps with them but doesn't photograph them. Both scenes, however, play up the gap between the characters and, in this former scene, the large block of charcoal colour contributes to the process.
In Nicolas Roeg' films alienation is rarely the problem. It is more likely to be messy communication, with Roeg's colour scheme often a chromatic mosaic, suggesting fractured connections between people who should never meet. Whether it is John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) and the dwarf in Don't Look Now, the gangster (James Fox) and the rock singer in Performance (Mick Jagger), and of course Alex (Art Garfunkel) and Milena (Theresa Russell) in Bad Timing, a title that could in different ways apply to all three films. Roeg likes colours and people to clash, but any violence that ensues is secondary to psychic connections that confuse. Baxter cannot quite comprehend the hellish red that permeates his mind and that leads to his daughter's death and finally his own. The red we see bleeding onto a slide is one of the great examples of colour foreshadowing in film. He isn't just capable of seeing a future that his rational self insistently denies; he is also a man with a sense of colour that he won't quite confront. At the beginning of the film before his daughter drowns we see her wearing a bright red mac. At the end of the film the dwarf that will kill him will be wearing a red duffle coat, and during the film he occasionally sees hints of red that make him wonder if his daughter is alive. His own thinking would regard this as nonsense, of course, but the irony of the film is that while he wishes against all rational hope he is seeing his daughter scuttling through the streets of Venice, he is seeing instead the dwarf that will kill him.
Don't Look Now is both maze-like and mosaic, with Venice a city the Baxters wander round often getting lost, and Baxter himself a person who restores the mosaics in churches. Roeg manages to use colour chromophobically while at the same time very much using colour nevertheless. One uses the term chromophobic as David Bachelor explores the idea in his book of that title. He sees the chromophobic in the way philosophers from Locke and Kant have emphasized design over colour, and sees its evidence in theorists, artists and architects, including Le Corbusier, and Berenson. As Matthew Affron says, reviewing the book, "references to Locke, Kant, and modern perceptual psychology merely add to the record of an old and persistent aesthetic binary dividing primary and objective processes (design) from secondary, subjective ones (color). The inevitable conclusion is that aesthetics, art history, criticism, and the teaching of art in the West are profoundly resistant to color." Baxter from this perspective wouldn't only be denying himself the gift of second sight, but also the importance of colour in recognizing it. If he had attended more to the red stain on his slide, as well as the black funereal garb of his wife whom he sees in the future and then chases after in the present, would he have been able to save his daughter's life and his own? Affron adds, "returning to the standard texts on color, he [Bachelor] notes that the old design/color binary never fails to implicitly or explicitly connect with distinctions of a moral, social, racial, and sexual character. Line's virtue is normatively virile, European, and heterosexual, while color is not only surface-oriented, impure, and deceptive, but is also coded feminine, infantile, queer, primitive, foreign, vulgar, and pathological." Colour here is the bridesmaid to the bride of line.
While this could explain why the reputation of fifties American colourist filmmakers was not initially high (Nicholas Ray, Douglas Sirk and even Hitchcock's greatest colourist film, Vertigo, was not well received on its release) it doesn't quite explain the high reputations of numerous post-sixties filmmakers who have used colour very attentively indeed. When critics refer to Godard's great period in the sixties, they are referring to films that were frequently in very deliberate colour: Le Mepris, Pierrot le Fou, La Chinoise and Weekend. Antonioni's reputation did not suffer after working in colour in Red Desert and Blow Up, and Kubrick's status as a great auteur rests more on his colour work than his black and white films. Paths of Glory, Lolita and even Dr Strangelove are films made by Kubrick, but 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon and Eyes Wide Shut are Kubrick films, his name unavoidably associated with them. What this means is that cinema is not necessarily chromophobic, but that its chromophilia isn't taken for granted. Many romantic comedies work in richer colours but do not benefit from a higher reputation. I Ping Chen and others crunched some numbers after looking randomly at 150 films on DVD from 1994 to 2005 and found that romance tends to be yellower and comedy redder, that horror, sci-fi and action tend to work with weaker colours. ('Characteristic Color Use in Different Film Genres') Nothing surprising there, but we can see that whether the film is using richer colour or more diluted colour it matters little to the reputation of the film: the horror has no more higher status than the comedy; the action film is regarded as not very different status wise from romance. Nevertheless I Ping Chen and co note that much film analysis is "colour indifferent", believing this is partly due to cinema's origins in black and white.
Godard and others wanted to make colour part of their assault on the expectations of cinema as a narrative medium. As Richard Brody says of Pierrot le fou in Everything is Cinema, "Godard advanced the plot of Lionel White's novel mechanically and with a conspicuous boredom, but filled in its interstices with a free and flamboyant array of images produced with untrammeled creativity." Part of that creativity rested on using colour not only to tell the story but to show the image, to give to mise-en-scene its own properties that would sometimes owe little to reflecting the narrative demand. Many films that use colour innovatively nevertheless do so within the constraints of storytelling expectation, a point addressed by Scott Higgins in an essay in The Cinema of Todd Haynes. Here he says "I would argue that 'artifice' has long been a part of technicolor design, and that it need not produce a distancing effect, but in fact the opposite; it can produce the kind of emotional scoring that Haynes exploits at the same time that he brings it to our awareness." In his article, Higgins looks at classic Hollywood examples of 'colour scoring': All that Heaven Allows, Blood and Sand, Leave her to Heaven and up to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Far from Heaven and In the Mood for Love. But Godard's use of colour was always distanciating, not so much refusing emotion, but refusing to allow for a coherence between colour design and narration. If there is a deeply petulant quality to Godard's work of the sixties and none more so than Pierrot le fou it rests here. For all the chromatic brilliance Higgins sees in the films he addresses, none of them would call into question the hierarchy of colour to line. The colour scoring matches narrative development. As Higgins says, "red and green lighting broadcasts its artifice and its reference to Sirk, activating an awareness of form that Haynes nonetheless manages to align with our sympathy for his characters." In Pierrot le fou we might wonder if Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo become characters at all, remaining themselves playfully, donning characterization just as readily as they will put paint on their face or dress in a colour that makes them happy. Throughout, Godard searches out blocks of colour that nevertheless remain naturalistic even if they refuse to become narrational. Higgins' point is the reverse: that Haynes makes the colours artificial but consistent with narrative development. In Pierrot le fou, there is a scene late in the film where Belmondo drives up to a bowling alley in a red car, and speaks briefly to a girl under a sky blue parasol, before going inside, where he finds Karina in sky blue pants, bowling next to a red carpet and sky blue chairs. The colours give the film a naturalistic look while also indicating a playful atmosphere, as if Karina and Belmondo are in a nursery of their own making that happens to be Godard's film. Godard doesn't at all neutralise the colours: they are conspicuously blocked units. But, by the same reckoning, they aren't specifically expressive either, as we find in Douglas Sirk or Nicholas Ray films. As V. F. Perkins says of a scene in Nicholas Ray's Bigger than Life, "as [James Mason's character] walks away from the school building with its background of respectable greys and browns, the image dissolves into a general view of the cab-park photographed so that the screen is virtually covered with the garish yellow of the taxi ranks." Perkins sees that the "transition thus handled gains an emotional colouring which conveys not only the physical strain under which the man lives, but also his declasse feeling of shame in his secondary occupation." (Film as Film)
Kubrick's use of blocking can be most conspicuously accessed in two very distinctively different films, 2001 and Eyes Wide Shut. In his visionary sci-fi film (and oddly not all sci-fi films are visionary; only a handful achieve this status like Blade Runner, 2001 and Metropolis), Kubrick goes for geometrical precision as many of his images can be compared to works by Piet Mondrian and Theo Van Doesburg, like Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie and Von Doesburg's University Hall. The former shares similarities with the scenes of Keir Dullea walking along the interior wall of the spaceship, while the latter suggests the spaceship more generally. We aren't talking here either of direct influence (that would be needed to be backed up by evidence showing Kubrick's intentions), nor are we saying that the resemblance is enough. More important is to see Kubrick's style (his der stijl) coming from a colour blocking that gives his work an aloof geometry quite at odds, for example, with the nervous energy of Scorsese. In Eyes Wide Shut, the colours are warmer but the style remains at one remove as Kubrick turns the orgy scene not into a sequence of passion, but of perversion. He doesn't want to draw us into the material but asks us to observe the geometry of the erotic: a sexual desire that indicates power is the thing. Kubrick uses pink carpeting and blue and red robes to indicate that this is a coded environment where desire will be subsumed to power. `If colour blocking in Godard is a playful thing, in Kubrick's work it is a sinister method of powerplay not play. In a fine video essay Marc Anthony Figueras looks at colour use in Kubrick, from red to blue, green to yellow, but emphasises the use of filter effects and lighting that creates a colour emphasis. We can see this for example in Eyes Wide Shut where it looks like the robes are black under a certain light and then blue when the light source changes. There is no claim behind Figueras's work - what he shows is Kubrick the exemplary director in control of his material. Our interest is chiefly one of vision: what makes Kubrick's works so singularly his and believe central to is that he makes colour aloof by blocking it often quite distinctly.
Even when he ostensibly blocks with the curtains, tablecloth or carpet in Merchant of Four Seasons, Rainer Werner Fassbinder will create a visual disturbance elsewhere in the image. When the central character's wife tells her family that her husband has been beating her, the red carpet doesn't remotely match the beige furniture, and a vase in the background gives off a sense of colour chaos. In Fox and his Friends, the opening shot is a crane that moves in on the various people at a fairground as Fassbinder shows a proliferation of colour that might just seem like a standard crowd scene in the mid-seventies, but manages also to convey Fassbinder's colour clash aesthetic, one that connotes the social violence central to his work. In one scene later in the film, Fox and his lover meet up with antique dealer Max. Fassbinder frames the dealer's place from an angle that maximises a menacing clutter. Max is clearly exploiting the newly rich Fox after Fox makes a killing on the lottery, and Fassbinder offers the opposite of a serene mise-en-scene to capture that exploitation. In another scene Fox's boyfriend is dressing in front of the mirror with Fox in the foreground. The scene is again a crisis in colour design as the colours bleed into each other with no attempt at harmony. Like Scorsese, but for very different reasons, Fassbinder's is an unhappy interior, an out of sync colour world that pushes very high on the Lynchian scale.
In an interview with Tony Rayns in the mid seventies, for Sight and Sound, Fassbinder talked about his love of Douglas Sirk films, saying "sure, because we haven't made films under the same conditions. At least half of his films contain the naivet of his bosses, the studio heads; for better or worse, we've never had that. That's one of the things that's so good in American films, and you almost never find it in European films. I long for a little naivet, but there's none around." Can colour be cynical or otherwise we may wonder, and believe that partly what rescues Godard's films from a potential self-reflexive cynicism rests in their colourist sense of play? Fassbinder has none of this sense of playfulness and it gives to his films a doleful despair that doesn't make them lesser works; just Fassbinderian ones. If so many of his movies end unhappily, he manages to create in the mise-en-scene a foreshadowed soft furnishing: an unhappy habitat where things will inevitably go wrong. Fassbinder was a post-war German filmmaker very interested in the brutality meted out not in death camps but in familial and social environments. Speaking of an early seventies Fassbinder film Jailbait, Christian Braad Thomsen says that we can see how "the lower middle class is still shaped by the values of Naziism." Thomsen adds, "and these are passed on to the children. When Hanni sees no other way but to kill her father, she takes over her father's values, just as he had taken over the values of national socialism." (Fassbinder) Bleeding takes many forms, and the clothes are but a means by which to suggest the bleeding of a past value into the present one as the colours indicate a strong sense of discordance.
Wong Kar-wai's bleeding colours are often as gentle as Fassbinder's are harsh, reflecting a very different worldview than the German director's. Wong's characters contain a solitary yearning that is never better reflected than in the dresses Maggie Cheung wears in In the Mood for Love. Whether it is a multiply-striped, dazzlingly-doodled or richly flower-printed, Cheung's dresses capture well the mood of a Wong film which indicates that no matter how apparently forceful the colours, there is a recessive nature to the personalities. From Days of Being Wild to My Blueberry Nights, whether the film is an acknowledged masterpiece or a bit of a mess, Wong's oozing colour scheme and passive characters lead us to see a non-conflictual personality at work. There may often be violence in Wong's films but he frequently finds ways in which to dilute the tension through slow motion, step-printing or music that counters the aggression, evident early on in Chungking Express and near the end of Days of Being Wild. It's as if there is always in Wong's films a feeling greater than event, just as in Fassbinder's there is an event no feeling can overcome. That event may be the Naziification of Germany which makes any gesture of sensitivity or sentimentality ring hollow, while in Wong's work there is no such equivalent event and the feelings have a rare sincerity, one that we can best describe as emotionally amplifying. The relationship between the two leading characters in In the Mood for Loveremains ambiguous but never aloof, with so much feeling created between this couple whose partners are having a categorical affair with each other, that consummation might violate the intimacy they have created rather than verify it. Colour in Wong bleeds from one place to another but this is not the violence of Scorsese or the aggression of Fassbinder, but emotional coagulation as feelings form.
Film is of course so much more than the depiction of colour but that doesn't mean colour is necessarily absorbed into the diegesis invisibly. While it is impossible to ignore Matisse and Van Gogh's use of colour, Mondrian and Cezanne's capacity to give shape to the colours they use, film's relationship to colour can seem irrelevant within its pertinence: that we see it but we don't look at it. In painting, we look at colour because that is so often what there is to see. Film isn't so much chromophobic, perhaps, but so narratologically focused that colour can seem invisible, if not to the eye than to what we are expected to view. To think in terms of bleeding and blocking allows to look at the colours and not only to see them.
© Tony McKibbin