Monday, May 21, 2012

This week in Technicolor: The Golden Coach, Lust for Life

Posted By on 05.21.12 at 01:22 PM

Anna Magnani, living in a painting, in Renoirs The Golden Coach
  • Anna Magnani, living in a painting, in Renoir's The Golden Coach
It’s been a great season for Technicolor in Chicago: the Music Box recently revived classics of the form by Douglas Sirk and Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger; the Northwest Chicago Film Society screened Otto Preminger’s Centennial Summer and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry; and Doc Films presented Vincente Minnelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis, my personal favorite example of the form.

And the hits just keep on coming. Tonight Doc Films will screen Jean Renoir’s The Golden Coach at 8:30 PM, and on Thursday at 6 PM the Film Center will present a second screening of Minnelli’s Van Gogh biopic Lust for Life. Both movies are essential works of Technicolor—and, by extension, 35-millimeter photography—suggesting oil paintings come to life. While there’s more to them than cinematography, seeing them on film heightens a dimension of their artistry that can only be hinted at by DVD.

Lust for Life, more importantly, is overwhelming on a big screen. It was Minnelli’s third film in MetroScope (MGM’s in-house response to Fox’s CinemaScope), and he uses the wide-screen frame masterfully. Interiors become vistas: when a character traverse a room—as Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn do repeatedly in one of the film’s long-take dialogue scenes—one feels some major evolution taking place within him. As for the rooms, they’re designed with the exacting, revelatory detail that marks even this director’s lesser work (if there is a heaven, then Vincente Minnelli is surely its interior decorator). For Minnelli, design is an extension of the soul—and Lust for Life communicates his philosophy beautifully.

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