Eye Candy: 10 Pastel-Colored Films


So Pretty/Very Rotten, Jane Mai and An Nguyen’s book of essay essays and comics that explore their relationship with Lolita subculture, is now available. We first learned about the book on The Paris Review, where the authors discuss the movement’s connection to the “romantic, decadent, and aristocratic parts of the Rococo era.” The candy-colored palette of Lolita fashion is such a visual feast and reminded us of several visually stunning films that use a pastel color scheme to evoke an emotional response from audiences. From fairytale-esque narratives to sickeningly sweet social subtext, here is a visual diary of ten pastel movies we love — just in time for those delicious summer sunsets.

Marie Antoinette (2006), Sofia Coppola

“I think what we did in general was that we freshened the whole palette of the French vision of the world at that time to more of a pastel vision.” —KK Barrett

A Kingdom of Fairies (1903), Georges Méliès

“With its thirty-five separate sequences, all inventively mixing nifty painted sets, early animation, miniatures and actual aquatic life with trick photography, this was quite the super-production in its day.” —Fandor

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), Jacques Demy

“Also a visual knockout is the film’s wall-to-wall color scheme, which presents a world where almost everything has taken on the most wonderful pastel hues. Among the things that are so colored are the characters’ clothes, the walls and furnishings of their apartments, even the very umbrellas that come out frequently in this very rainy town.

Yet Umbrellas of Cherbourg has none of the pastel fakery of something like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Demy and cinematographer Jean Rabier took pains to make this a nonartificial world, anchoring the film’s pure visual poetry to the specifics of urban reality.” —Kenneth Turan

To Catch a Thief (1955), Alfred Hitchcock

“As no one has ever done before him, Mr. Hitchcock has used that famous coast to form a pictorial backdrop that fairly yanks your eyes out of your head. Almost at the start, he gives you an automobile chase along roads that wind through cliff-hanging, seaside villages. The surprise is that it is seen from the air! If you have ever been on the Riviera, you can imagine how brilliant this is, in color and VistaVision, splashed on that giant screen.” —New York Times

A Swedish Love Story (1970), Roy Andersson

A Swedish Love Story, in its manner of elaborating only the subtlest tones, never descends into caricature. Even the most pitiful characters are not left as mere cartoons; they retain a tragic humanity, and their ordinary drama is not just a demonstration of existential absurdity. In this light, Annika and Pär, in their awakening love, might be able to hope for some meaning in their lives.” —Jean A. Gili

BUtterfield 8 (1960), Daniel Mann

“It offers admission to such an assortment of apartments, high-class bars, Fifth Avenue shops and speedy sports cars, all in color and CinemaScope, that it should make the most moral status seeker feel a little disposed toward a life of sin. Brandy, martinis and brittle dialogue flow like water all over the place. Figure another million has been spent on consummate chic.” —New York Times

Far from Heaven (2002), Todd Haynes

“Production designer Mark Friedberg has created a richly textured universe — the spotless town and clean pastel-toned stores, the Whitaker home’s studied but livable mix of traditional and ’50s modern, the autumnal Connecticut exteriors and sun-drenched Miami hotel complex where Frank’s closet door becomes unhinged during a vacation. Steeped in dazzling Technicolor hues, these settings form part of a seamless world whose fabrication underlines the rigid, synthetic nature of conservative mid-century small-town America.” —Variety

Jeanne Dielman (1975), Chantal Akerman

“The clearly defined cinematography of the film remains resolute even as the tight leash of control Jeanne has on her world seemingly slips out of her hands during the second 24 hours.” —Slant

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Wes Anderson

“At first glimpse, Anderson’s fealty to all things analog might seem defiant, borderline self-defeating. How else to explain why the trains in the film were actually made of cardboard; the majestic Pepto-Bismol pink Grand Budapest Hotel itself (the film’s central setting), was actually a 9-foot-tall model; and the pastry boxes from the fictional Mendl’s Bakery didn’t magically fall open as they appeared to; rather, somebody hiding under a table pulled them open with a fishing line? But together, they create a sense of intimacy and tactility that is largely missing from CGI-driven films. Because they’re handmade, or vintage, or hand-aged, the sets and props ‘have a kind of a lived-in, elegant quality,’ Seitz says. ‘Many of them look pretty and well-maintained, but none look new. That’s really the key.’ When the actors interact with these handmade places and things, the interactions feel more organic. Their characters come alive.” —Fast Company

Yôkihi (1955), Kenji Mizoguchi

Yôkihi (The Empress Yang Kwei Fei) encompasses its scenes in their totality: everything is shown that could be shown. A pageantry show (indeed, the plot itself concerns the clothes a woman wears), like a pastel-colored musical, it’s the stylistic opposite of Akasen Chitai (Street of Shame), his black-and-white last masterpiece, in which everything overflows the camera’s scope and the scene’s limits and must be alluded to. Yet Mizoguchi is still a master of synecdoche, making individual scenes and tableaux stand in for entire histories whose individual events may be absent, but may be collectively represented in a single shot—a few people in costume signaling an army, and an army signaling an entire country’s rebellion. It’s just one of the ways Yôkihi is beautifully artificial.” —David Phelps