“Ce n’est pas du sang, c’est du rouge.”
[ It’s not blood; it’s red. ] —Jean-Luc Godard
The history of film theory has been the history of ignoring color. Treated as a minor detail, ornament, or gimmick, and aligned with degraded cultural modes such as the feminine, the exotic, and the melodramatic, a rigorous aesthetics of color has only recently received due scholarly attention.
This seminar explores those aesthetic issues in addition to the affective, political, ethical and interpretive possibilities made available by taking color seriously. Although we will briefly study innovations in color film cinematography (attending to early hand-tinted films and the development of Technicolor), our focus will be on theoretical questions: How have philosophers defined color and how have these accounts moved between chromophobia and chromophilia (deriding or fetishizing it)? How does a logic of color work in specific genres and modes (melodrama, horror, surrealism, animation)? How is color linked to desire, excess, and other formal areas including sound, duration, space and movement? How is color attached to specific (gendered, raced) bodies? How is color linked to violence and how is color affectively provocative?
Readings from philosophers, art historians, and film theorists pair with films early and recent from all over the globe, including: The Wizard of Oz, Kill Bill, Blue, Raise the Red Lantern, Sombre, Vertigo, Red Desert, Fantasia, Written on the Wind, Schindler’s List, The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover, Blue is the Warmest Color, Contempt, Don’t Look Now, Three Colors Trilogy, and In the Mood for Love. In addition to the lecture, there will be an optional weekly four hour film screening.
Prerequisite: 21L.011, one subject in Literature or Comparative Media Studies; or permission of instructor.