May 8th, 1933


FROM THE ARCHIVES:The anonymous “cinema correspondent” of The Irish Times debated the dubious benefits of colour films after seeing Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies in London. – JOE JOYCE

IT WILL probably be many months before we have an opportunity of seeing these very interesting films here, but they should not be missed.

In this, as in other things, Disney has taken the lead, and the day of the coloured film has been brought appreciably nearer.

Whether we really want it to come is another matter. Logically, colour should bring the cinema closer to the representation of life as it is, but one cannot feel that it will have this effect. Curiously enough, coloured photographs and films seem to be not more, but less, lifelike than the plain variety; however carefully the job has been done, it always looks like a gaudy exaggeration of the reality.

This may be due to the fact that we are unaccustomed to colour in these thing, just as, when the first sound films came in, we were all struck by the impossibly loud voices of the actors and by the resounding crash which resulted when a match-box was dropped on the floor.

Such things never strike us now and it is possible that one’s instinctive objection to colour may only be because it is unfamiliar. Apart from this, one is sometimes inclined to wonder whether the world is really so colourful as we imagine it to be.

The streets of an ordinary town on an ordinary day are almost a monochrome; certainly they are better represented by the grey tones of the screen than by the more accurate method of making the bricks greyish-red, the pavements greyish-brown, and the tramcars grey.

In sunshine, even, the impression of light and shade is probably stronger than the impression, say, of red and brown. It may be that our imaginations lead us astray with regard to colour, and that, when we see our impressions literally translated, we are struck by the exaggeration.

Such speculations are dangerous ground for any but the philosopher, and we will be safer in saying that the disadvantages of colour seem to outweigh its benefits. Certainly it can show us things which depend for their effect rather on colour than on form, as flowers, or leaves in spring, or the blue of the sea.

On the other hand, it will certainly rob photography of much of its artistry. All those fine effects of light and shadow that a good camera-man knows how to attain will be confused by the introduction of tints which are not really necessary, and which add little to one’s sense of reality.

In Disney’s cartoons these questions do not arise, because they are not photographs and there is no use of light or shade. His silly symphonies are two-dimensional drawings come to life, and the colour is applied evenly on them; so that they look like the bright pictures in a child’s nursery book. In his case the effect is delightful, but our interest in the further application of colour will be tempered with a certain amount of misgiving.