Nightlies: The Beauty of Gray

I’ve been reading a little bit about the rise of Technicolor (ca. 1915-1935), and it got me thinking about the beauty of gray, of that swirling vortex of black-and-white that the eye makes in its perception of monochromatic cinematography.

There’s certainly beauty in those color-saturated hues we see in very fine contemporary filmmaking (just do a search for “Slovis” in the upper right-hand corner of this blog, and I bet you’ll find something on it). But gray has its own charms—perhaps the evocation of an older period, of a particular style (certainly what makes “noir” work aesthetically), of a mood that leads to contemplation, introspection.

November is a gray month, but, for that same reason, has its cinematic beauty. I think of a cold, austere Bergman protagonist (maybe the old doctor in Wild Strawberries?), of the “Criterion Collection” logo that played before the film began (a gray record spinning in black background?), of various bleak but hauntingly beautiful films set in post-harvest, where gray skies set over light-brown fields, and everything’s dying but never completely dead.

November’s beautiful because it’s part of the whole spectrum of the year; without it, I don’t think December—with its brighter whites and crystalline elegance—would be as enjoyable.

Bring on the gray, I say.

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