Sunday, January 06, 2008
Ennui. Is it just me, or is it the case that--when it's not filmed in black-and-white--it's filmed with a lot of warm colors? I am not willing to put money on this as a quantifiable assertion, mind you, but hear me out at least and let me know if you ever feel the same phenomenon I'm trying to put my finger on. I'm thinking of Antonioni in color, of the moral back alleys in some parts of Ferrara and Scorsese (or Cassavetes' Chinese Bookie), of Last Tango in Paris, of the dry Italian landscape in Gianni Amelio (or at least the few Amelio films I've seen). Whenever long takes are meant to indicate a crisis, it seems like a good idea to put reds, pinks, yellows, oranges, and tans into the the mix. I think this may be the case because despite all other "minimalist" adornments within our accepted signifying codes, the warm (womblike? honeyed?) tones cue us in to a problem. A shorthand for the notion that 'something is not right,' not quite in the same way that Pedro Costa means it though ... but something potentially pre-political, pre-intellectual, insofar as we're talking about artistic intent. (If a color scheme is indeed "womblike" shouldn't that take us to the moment of our very first "trauma," at least according to some interpretations?) Perhaps the formula is a sense of ennui, directionlessness, stagnation which is treated with warm colors when the subject matter is mixed with very powerful drives: of violence, greed, sexuality, frustrated kindnesses (the kindness of Amelio's heroes), of something with one Dionysian foot and one Christian one. Perhaps it is meaningful that all of the examples I've just listed above (without premeditation) are Italian or Italian-American. At any rate, if red-and-black and fast cutting are generally meaningful of a very intense cinema, a cinema of intense energies (like those sexual or violent), could this be like the long-take stretched-out mellowed sustain of the same kinds of "notes and chords"? See also this older post.