Color in cinema

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Hilde D’haeyere showing a clip of Soy Cuba (1964, Mikhail Kalatozov)

Last week, I attended the yearly ‘COFIB’ film seminar in Neerpelt, deep down in the Limburg. For Belgian standards, it’s a long train travel from Ghent, but it was definitely worth the trip. As Technicolor celebrates its 100th birthday this year, the central focus of the film weekend was the use of color in cinema.

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Lisa Colpaert on Leave her to Heaven

It was most exciting to hear Hilde D’haeyere talk about color in the silent film period (hand-colored, stencil-colored, tinted) and in a second lecture about the further development of color from the 1930s until the 1960s. Bregt Lameris gave insight into the restoration process and the difficult search for the various colored versions of the canonical experimental film Ballet mécanique (1924, Fernand Léger). Lisa Colpaert told us more about color films in the 1940s and 1950s that can be labeled as film noirs, thereby focusing on Leave her to heaven (1945, John M. Stahl) and the narrative functions of its conscious use of color in costumes.

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Bregt Lameris on the use of color in Ballet Mécanique

Apart from Ballet mécanique and some early short films, film highlights were the beautifully restored version of the German expressionist classic Das Cabinet des dr Caligari (1920, Robert Wiene) and Jacques Demy’s over-the-top 1970 musical Peau d’âne (although it appeared to be not done to admit to other cinephiles that I liked the film…)

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