Colour Contrast: Chromatic Connections in Cinema

Comparative Cinema, Issue 17 (Fall 2021)

Deadline: April 30, 2021

The analysis of colour as a key component of cinema has particularly animated film studies scholarship in recent years, with interest in colour encompassing among other dimensions its connections with aesthetics, affect, history and politics. Research in this area has ranged across more than a century of the medium’s existence: from the manifold possibilities of colour in the silent era in Sarah Street and Joshua Yumibe’s ‘Chromatic Modernity: Color, Cinema, and Media of the 1920s’ (2019), to the most recent digital developments as captured in Carolyn Kane’s ‘Chromatic Algorithms: Synthetic Color, Computer Art and Aesthetics after Code’ (2014), colour is a property of the film image that has remained a constant even as it has undergone dramatic changes over time.

While colour has been mined by a number of scholars for its specific national, industrial and technological potentials, the 17th issue of ‘Comparative Cinema’ invites contributors to approach colour for its comparative possibilities, broadly conceived. The perspective of comparison encourages contemplation at the level of close analysis, but also gestures towards larger cultural-historical questions. Sergei Eisenstein (1957) once argued that specific hues do not have absolute correspondences with isolated values or meanings, but that the significance of a particular colour is relational, ‘dependent only upon the general system of imagery’ in a given film. But beyond the systemic relations of colours within a film, the importance of colour as an element on screen might also be viewed in comparison with colour outside of cinema altogether, in other media or in terms of the sundry ideological uses to which it has been put.

This issue of ‘Comparative Cinema’ will be devoted specifically to the uses, effects and experiences of colour with respect to comparative film analysis. Topics may include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Colour and its absence: there has been a rise of late in the ‘colorization’ of black and white films, including Peter Jackson’s ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’ (2018). But a number of recent accessible works of art cinema – ‘Roma’ (Alfonso Cuarón, 2017), ‘Ida’ (Paweł Pawlikowski, 2013) – have explored the absence of colour altogether. How do particular films, filmmakers, or cinematographers present colour in relation to black and white? How are certain historical ‘transitions’ from black and white to colour conceived?
  • Colour and race: cinema has a vexed history of depicting people of colour, both owing to forms of systemic social and industrial exclusion, and to the racist structuring of film technologies in the reproduction of particular skin tones. What part has film colour played in this history? How have both black and white and polychromatic colour palettes constructed racial difference on screen?
  • Colour and ‘reality’: in order to exert some control over the colours of the profilmic world, Michelangelo Antonioni famously painted grass, trees, buildings and roads in ‘Red Desert’ (1964) and ‘Blow-Up’ (1967). What can such examples tell us about the ambitions of colour cinema in portraying the world? How do colours on film compare with the colours of ‘reality’? What is the relationship between ‘natural colour’ and the colours of nature? How might colour be analysed in documentary filmmaking?
  • Colour and nation: the historical development of colour film has varied widely in the different national film industries across the globe. How might the use of colour be tracked across different nation states? How has colour contributed to the exoticisation of certain territories throughout the history of cinema? How might relationships between global ‘centres’ and ‘peripheries’ be reconceived through the lens of colour film technologies?
  • Colour and time: with the aid of such invaluable resources as Barbara Flueckiger’s Timeline of Historical Film Colors (, there are many possibilities for the examination of colour over time. How do the early colourisation techniques associated with silent cinema – tinting, toning, handpainting – compare with the digital colour grading process today? How does colour in particular film prints change over time, due to vinegar syndrome, bleeding and other issues connected with the material degradation of analogue film?

‘Comparative Cinema’ invites the submission of complete articles addressing colour from a comparative perspective, which must be between 5500 and 7000 words long, including footnotes. Articles (in MS Word) and any accompanying images must be sent through the RACO platform, available on the journal website.

In addition to articles that respond to this particular topic, ‘Comparative Cinema’ is also accepting submissions for ‘Rear Window,’ a miscellaneous section of the journal that will include articles focusing on other aspects of cinema by using a comparative methodology. Please indicate in your submission if you wish to be considered for this section of the journal.

Timeline for Issue 17:

Deadline for submission of complete articles: 30/4/2021

Peer review: 30/4/2021-30/6/2021

Final copy deadline: 31/7/2021

Publication: Fall 2021