Eastman EXR 200T Color Negative Film 5293 / 7293
Subtractive 3 color: Chromogenic monopack
Eastman Kodak Company
Magid, Ron (1997): “Alien” Effects. Techniques Add Realism. In: American Cinematographer, 78,11, pp. 44–48, on p. 46.
The Age of Innocence (USA 1993, Martin Scorsese)
“Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence might have been subtitled The Man Who Could Not Love Women. The poet of impotence has translated Edith Wharton’s acerbic scrutiny of the suffocating codes and customs of late nineteenth-century New York into melodrama, centred on a tragic hero incapable of breaking through the social ties that bind. On the face of it, the film is a faithful adaptation of Wharton’s book, even allowing the writer herself a voice in Joanne Woodward’s narration. The minutiae of the novel’s descriptions of decor and fashion have been lovingly re-created, as the matching of image and voiceover testifies. This is a meeting not only of minds, but also of compulsions: the obsessional film-maker has found a fellow fetishist in Wharton, whose fascination with fine detail takes social realism to excess. And, of course, they are both artists who study their society with outsiders’ eyes.
Such distance as Scorsese does take on Archer is realised, characteristically, partly as a problem of vision. His film is literally an art movie in which characters are judged according to their taste and the audience is tested on how many paintings and objets d’art it can identify. The camera follows Archer’s gaze as he travels from room to room examining acquisition after acquisition. But the connoisseur’s eye that sets him apart from most of his peers is also his downfall. Archer’s approach to life and love is that of an aesthete – he would rather look than act. To him, May’s niceness is a curtain hiding her basic emptiness, but it is his own inability to see beyond surfaces that separates him from the woman he professes to love. His first sight of Ellen after his marriage is from afar as he watches her on the seashore gazing out over the ocean. He promises himself that if she turns round, he will go to meet her, but she does not move and the moment is lost. The scene of Ellen on the shore is reminiscent of an Impressionist painting, with sparkling sunlight and soft colours creating a highly romanticised vista in which the static figure of a woman acts as a kind of guarantee of order and harmony.
Scorsese seems unexpectedly at home with period drama, taking more than one cue from that other saga of social change and doomed love, The Magnificent Ambersons. As in Welles’ film, the tension between tradition and modernity is signalled by the use of irises and masking, which looks back to silent cinema while at the same time acting as harbinger of the new medium about to take the late nineteenth century by storm. The Magnificent Ambersons is melancholic, treating its characters swept up in the tide of history with sympathy and projecting a sense of loss at what is sacrificed in the name of progress. At first glance, Scorsese’s movie is less nostalgic, ending on a hopeful note which recognises that Archer’s children will achieve the happiness he denied himself. For Scorsese, as for Wharton, Archer’s final decision to walk away from love is the last nail in the coffin of the past in which he is entombed. Yet it is clear that the film-maker, more than the novelist, identifies with Archer’s desire to live in his memories rather than face reality. Scorsese’s Age of Innocence is suffused with fear of loss, most notably in its striving for period authenticity (always a lost cause) and in its obsession with faithfully reproducing the novel.”
(Cook, Pam (1994): The Age of Innocence. In: Ginette Vincendeau (ed.): Film – Literature – Heritage. London: BFI, pp. 161–164, on pp. 162–163.)
The Age of Innocence (USA 1993, Martin Scorsese)
“RED: A GUIDE TO WHAT IS NOT SAID
There are many films in which color is meticulously researched in order to provide historical accuracy. But it is the true master who goes further and uses color as well to capture the inner life of the characters and mirror the subtle intricacies of the story. Martin Scorsese’s Victorian reds are accurate to a fault. But it is the way that he shows them to us that affects us psychologically and emotionally. The brilliance of Scorsese’s approach to the use of red in this film lies in the fact that it is reality-based and interpretive at the same time. Ironically, the Victorians chose to act out their rigid rules of strict behavior within drawing rooms and opera houses where red, the color of lust and ardor, was a dominant visual theme. Red becomes our guide to what is not said.
Unspoken intrigues are consistently being played out among the characters in this tightly knit society. Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis), a scion of one of New York’s most prestigious families, is a master of repression. Red is constantly around him, tantalizing him with its many guises. At the opera when he first is introduced to the Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), the woman who will become his obsession, a bright red wall vibrates around him. As he admires the “audacious” painting of a nude in the Beaufort’s drawing room, the crimson of the interior activates the unspoken sexual energy in the room. Even in the uptown sitting room of powerful and very clever matriarch Granny Mingott (Miriam Margolis), red’s personality mirrors and supports the intrigues that are hatched there. Granny, after all, has a bit of the devil in her.
Red defines who Granny Mingott is. Under the guise of gentility and charm she is a powerful woman who enjoys creating intrigues with other people’s lives. Granny is also very independent. Due to her considerable girth she is virtually immobile, but rather than succumb to this inconvenience she builds her house at the very edge of uptown New York. All the people who matter in her class are obliged to come to her. Granny understands the intricacies of power and she actually delights in activating anxiety. She keeps setting up situations to throw Ellen and Newland together. When we see Granny, she is always in her red sitting room. The deep red of the room actually sets up a spatial intimacy where the walls tend to close us in. Scorsese understands the intricacies of color. He uses red to keep the tension level alive and well in Mrs. Mingott’s house.
In a luxurious gown, arriving late at her first New York formal dinner party, or walking bundled in a bright coat through the white snow at the Van der Leyden’s country estate, Ellen wears red. She, like Granny, appears to be direct, but we are never quite certain how much of it is planned and how much of it is innocent. She may be a temptress, but a temptress who still stays within the rules. She is the flame and Newland is the moth. Nevertheless, this moth averts the flame as often as he is tempted by it, and sometimes the flame avoids the moth. This dynamic, consistent throughout the film, is both supported and sustained by the anxious energy of red.
In a strange way, each of them is compulsive. She flees to the country. He goes after her. She flees to Boston. He goes after her. However, in the end, both of these not-quite-lovers wavered when they might have acted. Red has the kind of compulsive and tense energy that can be consuming, and then quickly gone. Newland’s compulsion was always tempered by his caution. Another part of his character was yellow. (See Yellow: “A Paralyzing Caution” on page 35.)
Only twice in the film is red allowed to crescendo and saturate the entire screen. These are key moments where we are able to actually see abstractly what Newland feels. Of course, they both relate to Ellen. However, The Age of Innocence is ultimately Newland Archer’s story, and Scorsese uses these saturated reds to give us a glimpse of the intense inner feelings of this elegant and restrained young man. When all of New York Society declines Granny Mingott’s invitation to meet the Countess, Newland believes the refusals are not a rejection, but, rather, eradication. As we hear these words, we see Ellen, her head bowed, bathed in an intense red light. She turns, stares directly at us, and dissolves into the saturated red that fills the screen. It is a brilliant visual translation of both the seething anger of Newland and the pain of Ellen.
We see what he feels and why he feels it at the same time. It is not a simple thing Scorsese does when he allows red to take over and fill the screen. When the red light floods over Ellen, we’re trapped between the objective and subjective and the specific and abstract, simultaneously. It’s almost as if we bump into ourselves emotionally. Ellen’s body language signals a profound sadness, but the bright red color signals Newland’s intense anger. For a brief moment we are left in an uncomfortable place between a powerless image and an active energy.
Scorsese, however, saved the most subjective yet very abstract red clue for last. After the farewell dinner for Ellen, Newland leaves his circle of male friends in the drawing room and stands alone, facing the fire, a mahogany red in front of him. His back is to us so it is as if we are standing behind him. The red of the wall becomes redder, slowly intensifies, surrounds him, and leaves. You can actually feel that energy as it envelops him. It is this color and its energy that intensifies Newland’s pain. He can no longer remain in denial.
The red that visually overwhelms Newland is an irrational force. It’s repressed fury. It’s angst. It’s intense pain. And all of this is communicated without seeing that incredibly expressive face of his. Red reveals an emotional response to a realization that he has been avoiding all evening. Somewhere deep within him he knows he will never see her again.
PURPLE: THE DEATH OF DELUSION
Perhaps, all along, Newland’s wife, May (Winona Ryder), was his perfect match. The first time we see her, she is in the palest of pink, a distant reminder of red. That, in the end, makes a good deal of sense. Pink sends a very innocent signal and it captures a critical element in May’s disingenuous character. She may appear innocent, but she is more than clever. May, in the final analysis, was the most passive controller of all. It was she who wore purple at the last dinner party.
YELLOW: A PARALYZING CAUTION
Newland sends Ellen roses that are yellow – a color that captures an essential element of his character. He can’t possibly send Ellen red roses. It would be way too obviously lusty for him, and besides, he’s far too romantic. Actually, yellow, particularly a golden yellow, is the perfect color for a romantic idealist (think of the great romantic legends, like Arthur and Guinevere or Romeo and Juliet, and see if you don’t visualize them in golden light). Yellow is cautionary: a trait that all but paralyzes Newland. It is warm, not hot. It is just edgy enough to satisfy his romantic idea of himself. In a moment of brilliant character exposition, Scorsese has Newland put his card in the florist’s envelope, hesitate, and then take it out and send the flowers anonymously.
Yellow also reflects the dynamic between Newland and Ellen. When we see her arranging the roses he has surreptitiously sent her, Scorsese shows us the importance of yellow to the dynamic between Newland and Ellen. The blossoms have opened and the color fills the screen behind her. (See the image in Chapter 4 on page 70.) Gradually the entire screen becomes yellow and we see her only enveloped in that light: his light. She is, after all, the object of his passive obsession. The screen is filled with caution and the object of his obsession all at the same time. It’s ingenious. Even when the clever Ellen asks him at the theater if he thinks the heroine’s lover will send her a box of yellow roses, Newland’s response was “I was thinking about that too.” That’s what Newland does. He thinks about it. He dreams about it. His actions stay within the golden confines of his mind.
Indeed, yellow defines the arc of their relationship. To the end, Newland is a dreamer. Even as he sees Ellen for the last time, a vase of yellow roses stands like a sentinel at his side.
Both Newland and Ellen ultimately preferred to live with the idea of being together. Even years later, when they are both free, Newland chooses to sit directly beneath her window and remember her. In his vision, she is bathed in a romantic golden glow and she turns and looks directly at him – an act that would shatter everything.”
(Bellantoni, Patti (2005): If It’s Purple, Someone’s Gonna Die. The Power of Color in Visual Storytelling. Taylor & Francis, on pp. 33–36.)
The Shawshank Redemption (USA 1994, Frank Darabont)
“THE CYNICAL STORYTELLER AND THE RELUCTANT HERO
As a van arrives with the newest crop of inmates, the camera pans over the fortress-like building from above. We see a crowd of men below moving toward the van like ants in slow motion. This begins Shawshank Prison’s welcoming ritual where inmates tease and threaten new arrivals. It is designed to intimidate and provide grist for gambling on which one of them will break down first. The prisoners disembark and Red (Morgan Freeman) bets on Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker who claims to be innocent in the killing of his wife and her lover. This marks the beginning of an enduring friendship between the two men, one of whom was wrong for the first time in more than thirty years. Andy didn’t break down. In fact, Andy became the hero in a very quiet human revolution.
Red is the observer/narrator in this place, where the very air seems tinged with a pale blue-gray. From the moment of the van’s arrival (the van, ironically, is white – the color of innocence; everybody in Shawshank, Red tells us, is “innocent”), the men are surrounded by this color. This is a film where color keeps us under its control in an almost invisible way.
You can feel the impenetrable thickness of the stone as the men file in under an archway and into a low-ceilinged gathering area. Light filters in from small barred windows high in the wall and backlights the men. Chained together in regular intervals, they cast long shadows across the stone floor, creating a pattern of bars formed by their own bodies. It is a brilliant way to visually begin a movie whose ultimate theme is redemption.
Throughout the film, the men struggle with the “prison” inside. Some win. Some don’t.
Van Gogh could have painted this scene. The stone, the blue prison uniforms, and the gray-blue atmosphere are actually reminiscent of his painting Prisoners Exercising (after Doré), done in 1890. The lighting in this film is so artfully done that we are not aware of its effect on us. Because of this gray-blueness, there is an all-pervasive melancholy that underscores the story. Prison is a sad place, and the hope that Andy engenders in the men becomes all the more poignant because it plays out in this atmosphere.
When warmer light appears, it often supports acts of Andy’s kindness. He creates a prison library, prepares tax returns for guards, barters for beers for the men, and, one day, locked in an office, he broadcasts an opera over the yard. The men stop what they’re doing and listen transfixed. As the camera pans over them in the sunlight (with the exception of the library, most of the results of Andy’s benevolence happen outdoors), we can actually see the humanity surface in their faces. Red says it best: “It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away. And for the briefest of moments, every last man at Shawshank felt free.”
Roger Deakins, Shawshank’s Oscar-nominated cinematographer, explains his color choices:
It was, I feel, a pretty obvious choice to go for the soft gray/blue palette for Shawshank. I wanted the audience to feel just that they were there and to experience the feeling that Tim’s character, Andy, was feeling. That demands naturalism but also a little more than that. The feeling of the dark interior and the strength of the light from outside, which was being left behind, is naturalistic but heightened also. As you note, I did vary the colors a little in the library, for instance, and during the opera sequence when there was a moment of hope, but for the most part I wanted to convey a sense of the omnipotence of the place, which dwarfs the humanity of the individual. I also wanted a sense of timelessness – the feeling of one day blending into another without relief –
monotony and claustrophobia.
Under the stewardship of the sadistic and greedy warden Norton, however, Shawshank is a place of cruelty beyond belief. Norton murders, cheats, lies, and threatens. He is the consummate bully. Because most of these actions take place in a cool gray-blue light, his cold, uncaring nature becomes even more pronounced. Bullying is an aggressive signal sent by red, not blue. Norton exhibits cruelty without passion. The audience has been surrounded by gray-blueness throughout the film, and our explorations have shown that blue can effect feelings of powerlessness. When we see horrible actions taking place in a blue atmosphere, we can identify with the helplessness of the victims. This is important. The gray-blue not only describes the prisoners’ lives, it also psychologically puts us in a place where we can empathize with them. This layers our experience.
One day in the yard, Andy tells Red about Zijuatenejo, an unknown place on the Pacific coast of Mexico, and adds that Mexicans call the Pacific a “place with no memory.” He says, “That’s where I want to live for the rest of my life… a little hotel on a beach… fix up an old boat and take guests fishing.” For Andy, it comes down to a simple choice. “Get busy living or get busy dying.” When he stands up, there is blue sky behind him, as the sun angles over the yard.
Andy gives Red directions to a specific hayfield, stone wall, and an oak tree and tells him something is buried for him there. Red promises he’ll look for it if he ever gets out. Soon after, Andy accomplishes the most creative prison escape in the history of prison-break movies. (There will be no revelation of how he did it here.)
Red is finally paroled after forty years. He is so terribly ill-prepared and lonely, he even thinks about how he can break parole and go back to Shawshank. In one of the most affecting moments in the film, there is a shot that is pure Edward Hopper. Red sits, slouching in an armchair, hands on his knees. A cold light filters in from a curtained window, but he doesn’t look out. His eyes are downcast, seeing only inward – into his own prison. He is cast in deep shadow. You feel the heaviness of his very soul.
Inevitably, Red remembers the promise he made to Andy and goes to the hayfield with a stone wall by an oak tree. Shot in the rich warm colors of autumn, the colors reflect a turning point for Red. The cold gray-blue is gone. As he finds the secret, the camera tilts upward toward him and we see fluffy clouds and blue sky. A letter says, “Hope is a good thing . . . I’m hoping this letter finds you and finds you well.” There is no signature.
TURQUOISE: A COLOR WITH NO MEMORY
The camera moves over a wide-open expanse of warm turquoise blue. It is what the Mexicans call “a place with no memory.”
I think the best thing about Shawshank, in terms of its color, is its consistency. The overall tone creates a sustained “mood” for the picture. When Red gains his freedom, since the audience has been subjected to the barrage of gray and brown for so long, the vibrancy of the green landscapes comes as a shock. – Roger Deakins”
(Bellantoni, Patti (2005): If It’s Purple, Someone’s Gonna Die. The Power of Color in Visual Storytelling. Taylor & Francis, on pp. 88–91.)
Batman Forever (USA 1995, Joel Schumacher)
“Matte painter Bob Scifo helped define the overall look of Gotham at WBIT, setting the CG city’s mood by creating lighting studies on his Macintosh. “Bob’s studies allowed our artists to come up with a simpler approach for lighting,” Scheele says. “They used an extreme spectrum of lighting in the same frame, depicting both the warm orange magic-hour sunset, along with the shadows and vibrantly-colored neon light of Gotham at night. They achieved that contrast by simplifying their lighting to a single bright sunlight source, then improved upon that ‘real’ lighting by using the infinitely flexible CG tools to set lights in impossible places, like shining up through the CG ‘street’ as if it were invisible to illuminate buildings. If we tried lighting a miniature like that, we’d be in a world of pain! But the result of such dramatic lighting and shadow naturally looked like a city lit by the sun.”
(Magid, Ron (1995): Effects Help to Expand Batman’s World. In: American Cinematographer, 76,7, pp. 45–55, on p. 46.)
Alien Resurrection (USA 1997, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
“Despite a theoretical understanding, Fichter didn’t know how to achieve this ethereal illumination, especially considering the unique characteristics of Alien Resurrection’s miniature spacecraft. Both the Betty (a small, light-colored, mosquito-like ship) and the Auriga (a dark, brooding, cigar-shaped space station) had highly detailed surfaces which kicked light right back to its source. Fichter concedes that “from the standpoint of physics, those complicated, shiny surfaces made it almost impossible to create the very diffused lighting we wanted.”
Fichter’s solution to the lighting problem occurred purely by accident. He recalls, “A grip carrying a piece of black foamcore walked in front of this very powerful light and I saw the light we were talking about. Negative sources are nothing new and have been used to take light away and cancel out certain types of light, but this was different. There is light in deep space, but it’s negative light and everything out there is black. Here we had a very powerful light bouncing off a black surface, which had the quality of being there without ‘being’ there. We tried throwing black silks in front of our lights, but found that the effect only worked when white light was bounced into a reflective black surface.”
The Auriga’s color scheme compounded Fichter’s lighting problems, as the station’s ominous, unnerving characterization led to it being a rather dark-hued model. He recalls, “I kept asking, ‘Can’t we paint the model lighter, shoot it, and then print it down?’ But Darius didn’t feel it would have the same quality, so we struggled to do it the difficult way. In the end, though, that was the correct approach.”
While the muted shades of the three previous Alien films made them largely monochromatic movies, Alien Resurrection is relatively colorful, much like the dreamy images in Jeunet’s fantasy The City of Lost Children, which was co-directed by frequent collaborator Marc Caro. “Funnily enough, we originally talked about taking a monochromatic approach on this film,” says Fichter, “yet somewhere along the line, [the palette] became their version of a monochromatic look. But Darius used the ENR process to take some of the garishness out of the colors, and I was actually a little bit surprised – the look is gorgeous and richly detailed.”
(Magid, Ron (1997): “Alien” Effects. Techniques Add Realism. In: American Cinematographer, 78,11, pp. 44–48, on pp. 44–45.)
“But Fichter’s shooting methods led to a bizarre chain-reaction in terms of reciprocity (a film stock’s relative sensitivity), as the T-grain emulsion began failing its ASA reading. “I was under the impression that Kodak’s T-grain technology didn’t have much reciprocity failure, but if we needed a 10-second or longer exposure at T22, we ran into big-time trouble. We started having these color shifts, and the director said, ‘It looks bluer this time.’ I hadn’t changed my lights, so I went to the lab, because I suspected we had a problem with the ENR process. When I finally looked at a reciprocity test, I realized that the film was becoming less sensitive. We were losing a stop to a stop-and-a-half due to reciprocity failure.”
One solution would have been to switch to a faster film stock. Such a change, however, could have affected an already-evolving problem involving Kodak’s T-grain stocks and greenscreen matting difficulties. “The faster the film stock, the more adjacency problems we ran into,” Fichter states. “It was a no-win situation. All of the Kodak T-grain stocks, even the new ones, contributed to edge artifact problems when we were shooting against greenscreen. But I stuck with Kodak because they make such consistent and dependable stock.”
Consistency and dependability were two qualities Fichter counted on while dealing with Alien Resurrection’s complex compositing issues. He explains, “Early on, I had a long conversation with Duboi [the Paris-based effects company founded by Pitof, Alien Resurrection’s visual effects supervisor], who were doing the matting. We did a series of tests to isolate where they wanted greenscreen or bluescreen used. But when I presented the tests to Duboi, they said, ‘We have a problem.’ It turned out that all of the effects houses in Europe were having problems with the use of greenscreen.”
The greenscreen system had been failing to generate the fine-edged detail necessary for believable mattes of the Betty and Auriga. Usage of bluescreen was out of the question because its characteristics ran counter to Khondji’s desired look. “Darius would go crazy with the blue because it’s so contrasty and grainy,” Fichter explains. “At that point, I called Jonathan Erland of Composite Components, who was extremely helpful. We started talking about using a UV matting technique, and I thought, ‘Do we really want to get into this?’ These processes require coating the models with special UV-sensitive paints and shooting them extremely carefully, which would’ve been a monster problem with that huge Auriga model. But then John and I came up with a way to handle a UV redscreen; we only accessed the red layer [of the emulsion], which gave us the sharpest mattes and wasn’t grainy. Although the red layer is slow, it has the finest grain, and it got us away from the very contrasty and grainy blue layer. I thought everything was perfect.”
(Magid, Ron (1997): “Alien” Effects. Techniques Add Realism. In: American Cinematographer, 78,11, pp. 44–48, on p. 46.)
Alien Resurrection (USA 1997, Jean-Pierre Jeunet):
Magid, Ron (1997): “Alien” Effects. Techniques Add Realism. In: American Cinematographer, 78,11, pp. 44–48, on pp. 44–45.
The Age of Innocence (USA 1993, Martin Scorsese):
Bellantoni, Patti (2005): If It’s Purple, Someone’s Gonna Die. The Power of Color in Visual Storytelling. Taylor & Francis, on pp. 33–36.
Cook, Pam (1994): The Age of Innocence. In: Ginette Vincendeau (ed.): Film – Literature – Heritage. London: BFI, pp. 161–164, on pp. 162–163.
Batman Forever (USA 1995, Joel Schumacher):
Magid, Ron (1995): Effects Help to Expand Batman’s World. In: American Cinematographer, 76,7, pp. 45–55, on p. 46.
The Shawshank Redemption (USA 1994, Frank Darabont):
Bellantoni, Patti (2005): If It’s Purple, Someone’s Gonna Die. The Power of Color in Visual Storytelling. Taylor & Francis, on pp. 88–91.