When I first sat down and thought about colour movies I wanted to strip to black and white, a lot of high drama came to mind. Besides my starting point of CHILDREN OF MEN, I had thoughts of THERE WILL BE BLOOD, WINTER’S BONE, and other such gritty tales.
Then along came Rachel West, and her suggestion that I consider NAPOLEON DYNAMITE.
— Rachel West (@rachel_is_here) January 28, 2017
Putting aside the fact that I hadn’t thought twice about NAPOLEON DYNAMITE since October of 2004…sometime around the point it got “Gawsh!’d” into the ground by too many movie quoters…the film itself isn’t the sort of thing I’d thought about from a visual perspective.
Well funny thing there, because for a film that’s already pretty absurd, taking away its colour – as Rachel suggested – makes it all the more absurd.
Okay, here’s where we miss the colour palette. Rex’s dojo has more flags than a Fourth of July parade, but without all that red, white, and blue in the frame, the image actually feels less absurd…not more.
Another moment where we miss the colour palette? Any scene involving Deb. She always seems to brighten up the shot…perhaps because she seems like the most honest soul in this whole weird world where everybody is hustling.
Somehow in black and white she seems a bit edgier.
Uncle Rico’s field almost looks like an Ansel Adams photo!
…first there was the Ansel Adams moment, now Dorothea Lange! Likewise, this shot in black and white reminds me of what Alexander Payne would do in NEBRASKA.
Re-watching this movie for this post, I was reminded of just how ugly it all looks. Every scene is washed-out, high key, and filled with the gross shades of a town time has forgot. Stripping away that grimy colour palette actually makes this story feel like more of an escape.
With NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, this is especially true since the original captures were so flat tonally. Most of these screen caps come with some tweaking to the curves.
Summer’s crew are one of the most mainstream things in this town: the popular girls dressing in the cooler clothes and hanging out with their jock of choice. Strangely, taking the colour out of the shot makes them all seem so strange…like cookie cutter copies of each other, without personalities of their own.
…and there we have it! Any requests for the next entry?