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Movies and Film

Film: Aesthetics of Black and White and Color Film

Color. In our culture it has been an aesthetic concern almost forever, from a Tintoretto to the tint on your bedroom wall. In our society color has been an issue of some political concern. But it is not one of the dimensions we notice in watching film. In fact, in Hollywood, when it is most expertly used, we don't notice it at all, except for a general sense that the mood of the film was somehow romantic, melancholy, or exciting.

In the following pages we shall try to make that sense of color a little more conscious. We'll talk about the history of color film technology, and then get right into a discussion of how and why what colors get chosen for which films. Next we'll discuss the political as well as the aesthetic dimension of the color spectrum. Finally, we will suggest some films whose use of color you might find interesting. So here is the story of color, concisely presented in black and white.

Panchromatic film stock, or panchro, is the name given now-standard black-and-white film stock. It is so called because it is sensitive to the whole range of color in the spectrum.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Movies and Film © 2001 by Mark Winokur and Bruce Holsinger. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order the e-book book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com.

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