A Visual Diary of Cinema’s Most Colorful Films

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March is a time for spring, St. Patrick’s Day, and . . . National Color Therapy Month. Here’s what founder Eleyne-Mari has to say about it:

Color therapy is a powerful, complementary therapy that has been used since ancient times, whether it was for physical, emotional or mental healing purposes. It’s been said that Hippocrates understood the power of color—which is a vibration—and used color ointments on his patients. Today, color therapy may be as simple as wearing a particular color because you want to feel better about yourself, like wearing Red to have more energy or more courage or become more grounded.

We’re celebrating National Color Therapy Month with one of the most visual art forms: movies. Take in some stunning stills from these ten gorgeous films that boast eye-popping color, emotional shades that speak to each character’s storyline, and more. Leave us your favorite colorful movie picks on our Facebook page.

Hero

From the New York Times:

Red was the first color Mr. Zhang [director Zhang Yimou] chose, which presented Mr. Doyle [cinematographer Christopher Doyle] with an immediate problem: in his work with Hong Kong directors like Wong Kar-wai, Mr. Doyle had made a conscious effort not to use the color. ‘Up until ‘In the Mood for Love,’ ‘ he says, ‘we avoided red at all costs. I think I’ve probably said on at least 25 films, ‘No red,’ because it has too many associations in Asia.’ Then he had to find a way to produce images that would match the unusual red of the hand-dyed costumes. To do this he decided to switch from Fuji, the film brand used for most of the film, to Kodak. ‘The red is a Kodak red,’ he said. ‘It’s a much more saturated solid red.’

The Wizard of Oz

From the Telegraph:

Colour is vital in the film: not just the ruby slippers, but the Yellow Brick Road, the Emerald City and the green-skinned Wicked Witch. It was only the second film MGM had made in three-strip Technicolor, then a new technology. The lighting had to be super-bright because film passed through the bulky, lumbering cameras so slowly. Temperatures on set rose to 38C as the lights burned up enough energy to light 550 five-room houses. Even so, colours were mangled by the Technicolor process. It took the art department a week to find the right shade of brick to make the Yellow Brick Road: their first attempts came out a muddy green.

Pierrot le fou

From Network Awesome:

Godard drapes every surface in washed out primary colors; blues, reds, yellows and white, giving the film the feel of a sun-faded De Stijl painting. But of course, even by this point, such audacious stylization would not have surprised anyone familiar with the French New Wave filmmaker’s idiosyncratic, proto-pop art work. This was, after all, the man who had transformed the jump cut from a jarring flaw into a no less jarring legitimate cinematic technique. But Godard does more here than saturate the frame with color, he saturates every image, every word of dialogue, every gesture, with meaning and connotation, until it becomes so heavy with thought that the viewer must abandon rational interpretation and simply let the juxtapositions and impressions wash over them. Comic Books, film posters, newsreels, snatches from famous books, music and camera motions cribbed from (or at least inspired by) classic Hollywood, all of them gel to form a heady mixture of ideas and feeling.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

From TCM:

“There’s no earthly way of knowing/Which direction we are going,” Wilder chants when Charlie and the others enter a tunnel illuminated by explosions of color to rival the Joshua Light Show. “Is it raining? Is it snowing? Is a hurricane a-blowing?” These lyrics echo John Lennon’s Watts-inspired “Rain,” and the music is just as twisted. The tune and the bad trip end abruptly when everyone emerges from the dark and mysterious passageway into a vivid, candy-colored wonderland. Talk about your evoking your spiritual rebirth and the journey toward the white light.”

Paris, Texas

Read a vintage interview with cinematographer Robby Müller on Cinephilia & Beyond.

2001

From C.A. Hartman:

And then there was red. The color red shows up many times in 2001: for example, in the molecule-like chairs the scientists sat on in the space station, in various parts of the spacecraft (particularly in the cockpit), in HAL’s omnipresent eye, and, at the very end of the film, in the new life form created from the astronaut’s death. The color is such a marked contrast to that of the rest of the film, to the point of being a shock. In this very sterile, clean, futuristic, quiet, spacious, even lifeless place, here is the color red, something that’s life-filled, loud, stimulating, and messy.

Lawrence of Arabia

Suspiria

From Electric Sheep Magazine:

We wanted to shoot with the look of old Technicolor but the printers we used were no good! They were too sensitive, they’re used to 500 ISO, and we like to use the old film stock, 40 ISO, which is good for deep contrast and strong colours, but it needs much light. It was also difficult to find. We found only a few hundred metres of it, in one laboratory, so we could shoot only very few takes.

The Red Shoes

From director Martin Scorsese:

That passion drives every single, extraordinary moment of The Red Shoes, and it’s what makes the film’s glorious Technicolor images so forceful and moving, now restored to their full, shimmering beauty. The characters and their world are brought to life with the aching beauty they themselves long to create. The vivid reds and deep blues, the vibrant yellows and rich blacks, the lustrous fleshtones of the close-ups, some of them ecstatic and some agonizing, or both at once…so many moments, so many conflicting emotions, such a swirl of color and light and sound, all burned into my mind from that very first viewing, the first of many.

In the Mood for Love

Director Wong Kar-Wai on working with cinematographer Christopher Doyle: “We always work like musicians. I’m the bandleader, and he’s one of the musicians. To me, it’s like we have sessions and I invite [my cast and crew] and we jam. So actually, we don’t discuss much, and we don’t have to work out things every day, like the light or the color or the camera angles. We know each other very well already.”