Color: We can’t not see it, and yet we’re frequently unaware of the power of its strategic use, even as we feel the effects. But you’ll never take color for granted again after perusing Charles Bramesco’s Colors of Film, which explores the palettes used in 50 iconic films through four eras of cinema.

Bramesco’s discussion dives into technical developments in color reproduction as well as the symbolic and emotional currency held in the color choices for pivotal scenes. For each film, a small grid of color blocks printed adjacent to film stills, along with hex and RGB codes, makes the case visually. For 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, “the Technicolor reds, greens, and yellows portray Broadway as a playland of exuberant fakery,” Bramesco writes, “its colors bewitching not in spite of their unnatural pop, but because of it.” A garish Pepto pink steals the show in Jamie Babbit’s queer cult classic But I’m a Cheerleader, while the soft pink of cherry blossoms characterizes Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

This book provides a fascinating object lesson in how visual information wields power. As Bramesco puts it, “Color is the perfect hiding place for significance, most powerful when left unstated.”

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