In Search of Color: Technicolor & Co.

Programme curated by Gian Luca Farinelli
Notes by Meredith Brody, Ian Christie, Paola Cristalli, Jean Douchet, Mariann Lewinsky, Michael Pogorzelski, Jonathan Rosenbaum


This is the tenth edition of the festival section devoted to colour, a favourite of Il Cinema Ritrovato community. For decades, cinephilia has nourished itself on the desire of seeing lost or hard-to-find films. Today, much is available, although not everything; seeing Technicolor films is still a truly rare experience. Every year at the Arlecchino cinema we screen vintage prints of the most beautiful colour motion picture process, rediscovering its original colours.
We are showing two classics from the 1940s: Meet Me in St. Louis, Vincente Minnelli’s first grand ‘party’ in colour, and John M. Stahl’s masterpiece, Leave Her to Heaven, where Technicolor makes Gene Tierney’s beauty blinding and her character’s personality painful. After his successful last black and white film, Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock made The Birds in 1963 and Marnie in 1964. The perfect eau de Nil tailleur, the metallic Aston Martin Coupé that Hedren drives to Bodega Bay and the ‘Kelly blonde’ colour of her hair would not have been as luminous or as compelling without Technicolor, just like the terror wreaked by the birds depends on their being stains of pure black. When the black stains disappear and things return to normal, we feel reassured by the warmth of Technicolor... In contrast, colour in Marnie causes fear: “The colours! Stop the colours!”. It is impossible to talk about Marnie without thinking of red and the main character’s suppressed memory that resurfaces and unravels the plot.
Straight from the Academy Film Archive is Mike Pogo’s much anticipated presentation of film print tests and four Technicolor prints from the early 1970s, which were made right before the laboratory closed in 1974. Four films with cinematographers who changed the history of colour in film while working with great filmmakers.
Winner of the Oscar for Cabaret, Geoffrey Unsworth invented groundbreaking photography for Bob Fosse’s film with cabaret lights painting the scenes and black and white acting as colours. The master of low-light photography and underexposed film Willis Gordon created in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather an atmosphere that lacks light like the Corleone family lacks peace. For John Boorman’s Deliverance, Vilmos Zsigmond bleached the river scenes, a cold omen about the events to come. The lighting genius of Lucien Ballard can be seen from Josef von Sternberg’s Morocco to Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, and he gave a scorched crispness to the attraction between Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw in Peckinpah’s The Getaway.
A sampling of Kinemacolor and three digital restorations complete this section. Two Republic films chosen by Martin Scorsese, the Technicolor Laughing Anne (1953) and Trucolor The Plunderers. And Ettore Giannini’s Carosello napoletano (1953), in which Piero Portalupi was inspired by theatrical effects, silent film stencil colours and Technicolor, creating an effective kaleidoscope of colours. 

Gian Luca Farinelli