Monday, November 15, 2010

Cinémathèque Screening Monday, 11/15, 7 p.m. J200 Big Fish Introduction by Cara Pardo (FMS ’11)

Red Fish, Blue Fish: Color and Production Design in Big Fish
This Cinémathèque presentation analyzes the use of color punctuation in Tim Burton’s film Big Fish (2003) as it relates to the emotional states of the characters as well as the film’s broader implications of truth versus myth and fact versus fiction. Using Patti Bellantoni’s text If It’s Purple, Someone’s Gonna Die as a foundation for color theory, Cara will examine specific color palettes used throughout the film, focusing primarily on the color evolution of Edward Bloom and how it reflects the colorful interpretation of his life, particularly when contrasted with our own cultural expectations of real world aesthetic. Ultimately, this is part of Cara's larger senior thesis, which explores how production design is used to establish and blend the worlds of reality and fantasy within the filmic medium.
Color plays a surprisingly integral role in the way we perceive and interpret our surroundings. Color, in fact, has such a powerful associative qualities that filmmakers often utilize specific colors to subconsciously establish and manipulate the viewer’s attitude towards a given environment. Bellantoni argues that “[c]olors indeed have their own language, which can visually help define a character arc or layer a story…. it is color that can determine how we think and feel” (xxvii). In Tim Burton’s film Big Fish, punctuated color acts as artifice and as rhetorical device to serve as a visual reflection of one man’s attempt to reconcile between the bittersweet reality of his father’s life with the catharsis of memory and fantasy.
Big Fish uses neutral colors to establish the relationship between Will and his estranged father; tranquil turquoises, pale gold, and passive lavender help to set a melancholy tone that reflects the reality of the characters’ lives.  The coldness of these colors subtly manipulates the viewer, referencing the controlled confines of reality within which Will Bloom initially believes he must operate. This color palette is starkly contrasted with the vibrant, exaggerated color choices in the fantastical stories of Edward Bloom’s past, where aggressive colors that reflect passion, hope, and confidence, dominate the frame. For example, the young Edward Bloom is never shown without some sort of red embellishment that serves as a visual reference to his own confident exuberance. Bellantoni writes, “Red is like visual caffeine…. Red can activate whatever passions you might bring to the table, or to the movie. Red is power” (2). In Big Fish, red advances the plot; it demands to be noticed by the audience, much as Edward Bloom demands to be noticed in his own life.
Ultimately, as Will Bloom begins to explore the power and freedom of his imagination, color quite literally returns to his life. It is important to look at color design in film as a strong persuasive device, not only as it affects the overall aesthetic of a piece, but how different colors elicit specific, unconscious associations that can change an entire audience’s perception of a film.

Monday, 11/15, 7 p.m. J200

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