Master Strokes: Wong Kar Wai and Color

By  · Published on January 30th, 2017

A new video examines the renowned director’s chromatic tendencies.

Outside of sound, the greatest single element ever added to the art of film is color. One only needs to think of the most significant color shift in cinematic history ‐ Dorothy opening the door of her black-and-white house onto the bright and vibrant land of Oz ‐ to realize the emotional, intellectual, and even physical impact color can have on an audience. Color visualizes that which can’t be spoken or related by the body, color informs starting on a subconscious level and working outward, and color infuses characters and context with deeper, more meaningful symbolism.

There are certain directors known for their use of specific colors ‐ Scorsese loves red, Wes Anderson loves yellow, Spielberg loves blue, the Coen’s love green ‐ and there are certain directors known for their mastery of many colors, Zhang Yimou and Tony Scott among them. But without a doubt the modern master of color in film is the inimitable Wong Kar Wai, who blends, blurs, and shifts between colors with an artist’s eye, augmenting the grace, beauty, and resonance of his films with this simple but complex aesthetic facet.

[watch] In the Mood for Greatness: Understanding the Cinematography of Christopher Doyle

In the following video from our friends at Glass Distortion, the distinctive ways Wong Kar Wai and his trusted cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, use color to their narrative and filmic advantage are explored, revealing in part the thoughtful manner with which these masterful men approach their art. The video also serves as a succinct treatise on the psychological and emotional connotations of color, and the various ways these connotations can be employed and manipulated.

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