Emory Cinematheque

Left to right: Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett in The Aviator | image source: theoscarbuzz.blogspot.com

The Cinematheque Film Series presents a weekly film series on Wednesday nights at 7:30 p.m. in either White Hall 205 or 208 at Emory University during the school year. The series is a collaboration between Emory College and the Department of Film and Media Studies, showing a series of outstanding films, typically in 35mm or DCP, from world cinema with an introduction by Emory faculty members.

The weekly screenings are free and open to the public.

Emory Explores the History of Color Films in Free Screening Series

ATLANTA (January 2, 2019)—The Emory Cinematheque, a weekly series of free film screenings, presents “Glorious Color!” for its Spring 2019 program. Beginning January 16 with restorations of Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1920) and the Georges Méliès short A Trip to the Moon (1902), the screenings will be held each Wednesday at 7:30 PM in Emory’s White Hall 208 through April 24th. They are free and open to the public. All screenings will be shown in the theatrical projection formats 35mm or DCP.

From the earliest days of cinema, filmmakers have found sophisticated and expressive ways to represent color on screen. This series examines the history of color film as an ongoing dialogue between technology and aesthetics. Technologies explored in the series include tinting and hand-coloring in silent films, two color and three-strip Technicolor, Eastmancolor, and the new possibilities opened up by digital color grading. Films in the series include: King of Jazz (1930), The Adventures of Robin Hood 91938), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), An American in Paris (1951), All that Heaven Allows (1955), The Red Desert (1964), Cries and Whispers (1972), and The Aviator (2004).

“Besides showcasing some of the most striking examples of color in the history of film, I want to raise awareness of the recent boom in digital film restoration. It is gratifying to see so many older films available to the public in high-quality versions, but at the same time it raises significant questions. How do we know what a film looked like when it was first released? And what happens when you translate a film from a photochemical medium such as 35mm into an all-digital environment?” says series curator Dr. James Steffen, the Film and Media Studies Librarian and film historian.

Each film will be introduced by Dr. Steffen or other film studies faculty. For more information, visit the Emory Film and Media Studies website at http://filmstudies.emory.edu/home/events/film-series/emory-cinematheque.html or call 404-727-6761. 

Spring Film Screen Series:


January 16, 2018: A Trip to the Moon (1902) and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1920), 92 minutes total. DCP.

During the silent era, filmmakers used a variety of techniques to introduce color in their images, including tinting and toning, hand and stencil coloring of individual frames, and early experiments with natural color photography. This restoration of Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon based on a rare hand-colored print. The 2014 restoration of Robert Wiene’s classic German Expressionist work The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari draws upon the surviving camera negative and reproduces the tinting and toning found on early release prints of the film.

January 23, 2018: King of Jazz (1930), 105 minutes. DCP.

Technicolor was not the first successful natural color process, but it became by far the most widespread since exhibitors could use normal projection equipment in all but its earliest version. Until the early 1930s, Technicolor employed a two color system that did not reproduce a full color spectrum. As we can see in this striking restoration of John Murray Anderson’s King of Jazz, a musical revue featuring the jazz conductor Paul Whiteman and an early appearance by Bing Crosby, filmmakers often turned that seeming limitation in color to their advantage through creative use of set design, costumes, and lighting.

January 30, 2018: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), 102 minutes. DCP.

The first major three-strip Technicolor film was the Disney animated short The Flowers and the Trees (1932). By the time of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Technicolor had solved the main problems of photographing and printing full color films on a mass scale. As a business entity, Technicolor also influenced the overall look of color films made in Hollywood, since they required studios to hire a Technicolor consultant—most often Natalie Kalmus, the ex-wife of Herbert Kalmus, one of the company’s founders. Her recommendations went well beyond the technical requirements of the system and reflected her own tastes and theories of color perception. Although she was widely disliked within the industry, Kalmus became a de facto creative partner in productions such as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). This film, directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Errol Flynn, Olivia deHavilland and Basil Rathbone, remains one of Hollywood’s most entertaining adventure epics.

February 6, 2019: A Matter of Life and Death (1946), 104 minutes. DCP.

The cinematographer Jack Cardiff collaborated on three features with the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger: A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947), and The Red Shoes (1948). They stand out as imaginative high points not only in the use of Technicolor, but also in the history of color film in general. A Matter of Life and Death, also known as Stairway to Heaven, depicts a Royal Air Force pilot (David Niven) who receives a second chance at life through his love for a radio operator (Kim Hunter), when his journey to heaven goes awry. Grover Crisp from Sony Pictures Entertainment will introduce this new 4K digital restoration.

February 13, 2019: An American in Paris (1951), 113 minutes. DCP.

The musicals that Arthur Freed produced for MGM arguably represent the creative pinnacle of Technicolor in Hollywood. And one of best examples of this is surely the 17-minute ballet sequence that caps Vincente Minnelli’s An American in Paris (1951) In it, Minnelli and his production designers evoke French painters such as Maurice Utrillo, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Rousseau and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Starring Gene Kelley (who also did the choreography) and Leslie Caron, the film won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Screenplay, Art-Set Decoration, Costume Design, Music, and Cinematography.

February 20, 2019: All That Heaven Allows (1955), 89 minutes. DCP.

Eastman Kodak’s single-negative Eastmancolor process quickly displaced the three-strip Technicolor system as the industry standard, although Technicolor continued to produce high quality release prints with their dye transfer process. Employing the combination of an Eastmancolor negative and Technicolor release prints, in All That Heaven Allows (1955), Douglas Sirk and his cinematographer Russell Metty used vibrant and stylized colors to dramatize a romance between a widow (Jane Wyman) and a younger gardener (Rock Hudson). The couple faces conflict with family and society in small-town New England in this much acclaimed quintessential 1950s romantic and family melodrama. Format: DCP, courtesy of Universal.

February 27, 2019: Special screening of a rare IB Technicolor print. Title TBA.

Technicolor’s dye transfer printing process, also known as dye imbibition and commonly abbreviated as “IB,” involved printing individual yellow, cyan and magenta dye layers that were “imbibed” by the gelatin on film stock. While relatively expensive and time consuming, the process allowed for a high degree of control over the color on release prints. The colors also tended to be very stable over time compared to other color systems. Technicolor continued to produce prints for a large number of feature films through the early 1970s, and the process was revived 1997-2002 for a selected number of restorations and new feature films. This special screening will show case a vintage IB Tech print of a classic film. Further details will be announced before the screening date.

March 6, 2019: The Red Desert (1964), 116 minutes. 35mm.

In his first color film, the renowned Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni employed visual effects such as an extreme telephoto lens to suggest the troubled psychological state of the protagonist, Giuliana (Monica Vitti), as she wanders the industrialized landscape of northern Italy. Notoriously, Antionioni painted everyday objects and even outdoor landscapes to achieve the precise color effects that he wanted. Antonioni commented, “I want to paint the film as one paints the canvas; I want to invent the color relationships, and not limit myself to photographing only natural colors.” In places the film invokes abstract painting, as scholar Angela Dalle Vacche has pointed out.

March 13, 2019: Spring Break - no screening.

March 20, 2019: Cries and Whispers (1972), 91 minutes. DCP.

Taking advantage of faster Eastmancolor film stocks, in the 1960s Ingmar Bergman and Sven Nykvist largely abandoned standard studio lighting setups in favor of a more direct and naturalistic style. In Cries and Whispers (1972), they combined this approach with striking art direction and costume design that emphasizes reds, whites, browns and blacks, in order to portray the relationship between three sisters (Bergman regulars Liv Ullmann, Ingrid Thulin, Harriet Anderson) and a servant (Kari Sylwan) as one of the sisters is dying of cancer. The result has often been compared to the paintings of Edvard Munch, and it certainly amplifies the film’s harrowing emotional impact. This film contains disturbing sexual imagery.

March 27, 2019: Wanda (1970), 103 minutes. DCP.

Barbara Loden wrote, directed and starred in Wanda (1970), a low-budget independent film about a woman adrift on the margins of society in Pennsylvania. Loden shot the film on 16mm reversal stock, which was subsequently blown up to 35mm for theatrical release. This 4K restoration by the UCLA Film and Television Archive preserves the film’s gritty texture, while providing better quality than has been available for many years. Wanda, Loden’s only film, is an authentic classic of independent American cinema.

April 3, 2019: McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), 121 minutes. DCP.

Vilmos Zsigmond (1930-2016) was easily one of the most accomplished cinematographers of the 1970s, working with filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, John Boorman, Michael Cimino, and Robert Altman. In McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), Altman wanted to suggest the look of “old faded pictures.” Zsigmond employed a method known as flashing, which entails pre-exposing the negative to light before shooting. The resulting grainy image alarmed studio executives, but it helped cement the film’s reputation as a sophisticated and layered commentary on the Western genre and American capitalism. The film is also memorable for its performances by Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.

April 10, 2019: Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), 84 minutes. DCP.

The bleach bypass process and its variants entail skipping or minimizing the usual bleaching stage in photochemical lab development. Because more silver is retained in the image, it increases the contrast and results in deeper blacks. It can also result in desaturated colors. In Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), one of the most highly acclaimed modern films from the United Kingdom, Terence Davies uses the distinctive bleach bypass look to evoke his emotionally complex childhood in working-class Liverpool, and the impact of popular music on his family’s life. This new 4K restoration was supervised by the director.

April 17, 2019: The Aviator (2004), 170 minutes. 35mm.

The use of a digital intermediate (DI) entails scanning a film digitally, working with the image on a computer, then printing the finished master back onto film or using it for digital projection. The technology has existed in various forms for years, but by the early 1990s it was robust enough for filmmakers to use on a large scale. For Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (2004), a biopic of Howard Hughes  (Leonardo DiCaprio), it enabled the cinematographer Robert Richardson and his technical crew (who took home an Oscar for their work) to design LUTs (mathematical lookup tables) to give the footage a desired appearance. Among other things, Richardson and Scorsese used the process to emulate the looks of two-color and three strip Technicolor. Also featuring an Oscar-winning turn from Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn, an all-star cast, The Aviator also received Academy Awards for editing, art direction and costume design.

April 24, 2019: Speed Racer (2008), 135 minutes. DCP.

In a profile on Speed Racer (2008) in American Cinematographer, David Tattersall stated: “To bring the anime world to life, the Wachowskis wanted something very different - not really a film look, a digital look, or an animated look, but a hybrid of all three. Our goal was a hyper-real look.” To achieve that look, Tattersall and the film’s technical crew used high definition video instead of film, an exaggerated color palette, and elaborate digital compositing and green screen effects. Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s homage to the Japanese manga and television series from the Sixties failed to turn a profit at the box office and received mixed reviews, but has since grown in reputation due to its high octane visual style and excellent cast, including Emile Hirsch, Matthew Fox, Christina Ricci and Susan Sarandon.