July 2019, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour
 – Color in Film

THE RED SHOES, 1948

The introduction of color film in the mid-1930s and subsequent developments in this area are some of the most significant aesthetic innovations in cinematography. Color in film is an important component of image composition and dramatic structuring, as well as of fundamental significance for the perception of film. Across 13 films, we take a look at the range of approaches applied to color and the different ways it can be used, running the whole gamut between obvious narrative connection and autonomy.

BRONENOSEZ POTEMKIN (Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein, Soviet Union 1925, 2. & 9.7.) A revolution film in five acts: the sailors on board the Potemkin fight back against the undignified living conditions on the ship, take command of the craft and drop anchor at Odessa. On the city’s famous steps, the authorities intervene. Eisenstein intended the raising of the symbolic red flag, which appears at various points in the (black and white) film, to be colored in precisely this hue, an idea which fell victim to intervention on the part of the censors. We are showing the 2005 restoration of the film, which is a closer approximation of the Soviet premiere version in various ways, not least in how it allows the flag to flutter in shimmering red once again.

LES PARAPLUIES DE CHERBOURG (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Jacques Demy, France/West Germany 1964, 3. & 12.7.) “The first people’s opera ever written for cinema” (Demy), which transforms the initially autumnal Cherbourg into a fairy-tale realm thanks to its lavish use of dramatic color. It’s here that 18-year-old Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve as an umbrella saleswoman) and car mechanic Guy fall in love. Their love ends abruptly when Guy is called up for war service in Algeria and the pregnant Geneviève is pushed to marry an affluent jeweler.  

LOLA (R.W. Fassbinder, West Germany 1981, 4. & 13.7.) The economy is flourishing in a small town in Northern Bavaria, where business deals are best negotiated in the local brothel. The new head of the buildings department would like to expose the town's corrupt dealings, but falls in love with prostitute Lola. The third part of an examination of West German postwar society resembles a dialog between the colors red and blue (man/woman, passion/order, inside/outside) that initially clash in seemingly irreconcilable fashion.

THE ASSASSIN (Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan/People’s Republic of China/Hong Kong/France 2015, 6. & 17.7.) Following a black-and-while prologue that moves a breathtaking speed, Hou’s first martial arts film opens out to embrace a hugely nuanced world of colors. In 9th century China, Nie Yinniang, daughter of a Chinese general, is trained by an abbess to be an assassin, who is then summoned back home to kill the man once promised to her as a husband. A singular work duly unfolds, of complex images rich in color and detail, of flowing movements, of silence and melancholy.   

ONE WAY BOOGIE WOOGIE / 27 YEARS LATER (James Benning, USA 2005 | 19. & 22.7.) A film about memory and aging – also that of colors. Benning shot ONE WAY BOOGIE WOOGIE in 1977, which consists of 60 one-minute shots of urban industrial areas in Milwaukee. He then returned to the old locations for 27 YEARS LATER. Aside from a few new structures that could be put down to urban planning and several torn-down buildings, the images show a surprising degree of similarity. The clearest difference between the footage thus lies in the different materials upon which they were short: the earlier film, shot on Ektachrome Commercial Kodak 7252 (a fine grain reversal film), conveys a rich spectrum of color, while the color quality of the 2004 footage (Kodak 7245) is marked by a coolness, clarity, and realism.

PIERROT LE FOU (Jean-Luc Godard, France/Italy 1965, 10. & 14.7.) A fever dream in red and blue: Pierrot (J.-P. Belmondo) and his former girlfriend Marianne (Anna Karina) meet again. What begins as an adventure ends in the two of them fleeing, via different forms of transport and in different stages, barely skirting the abyss at all times. “It’s not the destination that’s important, but rather the space in between. The movement, the air, the light, the colors. Cinema is what’s between things, not the things themselves.” (JLG)

MIES VAILLA MENNEISYYTTÄ (The Man Without A Past, Aki Kaurismäki, Finland/Germany/France 2002, 18. & 31.7.) After being robbed and beaten, a man miraculously returns to life, albeit having forgotten everything. Without an identity, past or memory, he starts a new life among homeless people and outlaws, protected by the angelic Salvation Army. He plants potatoes, sees an absurd bank robbery, and finds love with Irma (Kati Outinen). With a true lightness of touch and without ever succumbing to sentimentality, Kaurismaki draws on rich, gleaming colors for this account of solidarity among the excluded and how to retain dignity.

IL DESERTO ROSSO (Red Desert, Michelangelo Antonioni, I/F 1964, 18. & 25.7.) Giuliana (Monica Vitti) is desperately unhappy in her loveless marriage and unable to reconnect with her daily life following an accident, perceiving her surroundings as being entirely devoid of life. They consist of cold interiors and destroyed industrial complexes. The complex dramatic use of color, broken light, and above all the intense red hues form the color texture of this film about shifts in perception and losing touch with reality.

THE RED SHOES (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, United Kingdom 1948, 20. & 28.7.) Elaborately connecting the real world and a world of fantasy, Powell and Pressburger created a Technicolor ballet film wonder in magnificent colors in THE RED SHOES. Young prima ballerina Vicki (Moira Shearer) is torn between her love for ballet and her love for a young composer, with her only option being to flee. The film’s highpoint is a nearly 15-minute ballet sequence for which film designer Hein Heckroth created hundreds of oil sketches based on an abstract color scheme.  

GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (Howard Hawks, USA 1953, 21. & 30.7.) Costumes in glittering sweet-wrapper hues and daring color combinations (including pink and red): a rush of colors in full Technicolor as the perfect accompaniment for the shimmering diamonds to which a central musical number in the film is dedicated, canonically sung by Marilyn Monroe. She is supposed to be inspected for her virtue during a journey by ship. The result leaves a great deal open to interpretation and becomes the starting point for a series of high-percentage cocktails, brilliant show acts, a feigned theft, and a two-fold happy ending.

TOUKI BOUKI (Djibril Diop Mambéty, Senegal 1973, 23. & 27.7.) A young Senegalese couple dreams of a better future in Paris. After overcoming a multitude of barriers however, they have to admit that life in France is only linked to a vague hope unlikely ever to be fulfilled. Djibril Diop Mambéty's experimental feature debut, shot in the lurid colors of the 1970s, is at once a road movie, an episodic film, a story initiation, and a satire. The borders between reality and imagination, documentary and fantasy are blurred in this milestone in the history of African cinema.

NOSFERATU, EINE SYMPHONIE DES GRAUENS (F.W. Murnau, Germany 1921, 24. & 26.7., with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) Long before the introduction of color film, the pioneers of cinema experimented with color in film: Manual and template colorings, virage (monochrome tinting) and toning (chemical conversion of the film material) added color to early cinema. Murnau's Dracula adaptation is screening in a viraged version, the color dramaturgy of which corresponds to the standard usages of the time: blue colored sequences referred to nocturnal or outdoor scenes, yellow stood for indoor shots, red symbolized danger, fire or also love, while green signified nature. (mg)

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour
 – Color in Film

07:30 pm Cinema 2


One Way Boogie Woogie / 27 Years Later

*One Way Boogie Woogie / 27 Years Later
James Benning USA 2005 16 mm OV 120 min

arsenal cinema: Female Film Noir Pioneers –
 Muriel Box, Edith Carlmar, Bodil Ipsen, Ida Lupino, Wendy Toye

08:00 pm Cinema 1


Subway in the Sky

Subway in the Sky Muriel Box UK 1959
With Hildegard Knef, Van Johnson, Albert Lieven
35 mm OV/French ST 86 min

Introduced by Madeleine Bernstorff