Wednesday, February 12, 2014

colors from somewhere else

I think I've read that color has to do, scientifically, with light. Something about a prism and the word "spectrum." I really can't be bothered with that kind of thinking. It makes me tense and rebellious. I prefer rummaging around in the fractal cracks and seams of things, where spirit moves and the poetic happens.

I want to talk about Jack Cardiff's use of Technicolor in the 1947 Powell and Pressburger film Black Narcissus

I bought the DVD several years ago, owing to Cardiff's color. It's the most beautiful film I've ever seen. The plot and characters are beside the point.

I want to talk about Cardiff's color in this film, but I'm not sure what to say. Even if I knew what to say, I doubt I would know how to say it. Whatever it is I want to talk about is something different than what this article has to say:

Jack Cardiff: Painter's eye view

Cardiff said his filter palette was influenced by master painters. That's one way of looking at it -- his. I want to look at it my way.

I've read about the effects of peyote. I've read that colors from somewhere else are transposed onto or interfused with objects. A chemical transcendence in which vibrancy itself is made manifest as tones of metaphysical color. It's an entry into a dimension unsuspected by everyday consciousness. 

As with peyote so with Cardiff's colorology -- we're getting as close as we're likely to get to thingness-in-itself. An impossible depth of presence somehow also possible.

Jack Cardiff's cinematography in Black Narcissus happens as a convergence of hallucination, substance, and aesthetics.

1914 - 2009


  1. I'm going to get this film - hopefully the library can get it for me....thank you.

  2. Was able to find bits and pieces--smashing cinematography--how did they do this in a studio set?--similar to the effect that Gypsies go to Heaven had on me, but in a subdued--and therefore all the more concentrated, layered, Jane-Eyre-ish British fashion.