Sin City / color in movies

  • October 23, 2010
  • James Skemp
  • article

A thread from Facebook that I don't want to lose. To be updated as more responses come in.

Initial post

Ah, color in movies. Like the bar scene - - in Sin City and near the end of Avalon - - and the obvious ones in the Wizard of Oz.

Any other good examples?

Response from Rob Lumley

You seem to be mentioning when a particular color stands out. Another obvious one is the end of Schindler's List.

Color in general in movies is interesting. I'm always intrigued with the palette of colors a DIrector chooses. For example, Michael Mann's Heat uses a lot of blues/grays.

My response

I debated putting Wizard of Oz on there, and after more thought, shouldn't have.

With Avalon I think it's the shock factor. The entire movie, up until then, is in a sepia-like tone. But when she (spoilers) opens the door into the 'highest level' and color fills the screen, you realize that the entire movie *is* in color. Of course, I'm sure there's more to it than just that, but I've yet to re-watch it.

With Sin City it's far deeper than that. The movie is mostly in black and white, excluding certain aspects of some people. Marv's story seems to feature more purely black and white moments, like when he's in his parole officer's apartment, where the white of the bandages really seem to pop off the screen.

With the above scene, however, you first see color start to bleed into the world. It makes sense a few scenes later when he admits that he loves her. While her love for him may be more hero/savior worship, you know his love transcends that. I think the clearest evidence of that is this scene where we see his world view, of Basin City, change. Color seeps in until he realizes that he's just put her life at risk. With this the color fades quickly.

Like Avalon, Sin City isn't *shot* in a particular hue, for the characters, the world really is that way.

I typically don't follow individual directors, but Mann is one that I do. (It's too bad the Miami Vice movie was such a disappointment.) Heat's a *long* movie, but one that features very little filler. I guess I didn't pay that much importance to the palette choice (although certainly, based on the Miami Vice series, I knew that was one of the things he uses), just because I find his characters much more interesting. Like Collateral. Features perhaps a bit more filler than it could, but the characters, I think, make up for it.

Didn't watch Schindler's List in school, so while it's on my list, I can't comment on that.