A new book by Alexandre Tournay stirs the senses and challenges preconceived ideas. In a hypnotic chromatic language of his own making, he stuns us with compositions that reproduce the color palette of 1,000 films; some disturbing, others luminous. It’s not always what you would expect.
There are books like this one that open your eyes to a radically new field. Alexandre Tournay embarked on a slightly crazy project: to summarize 1,000 landmark films from world cinema in 1,000 color circles. More precisely, this web design and multimedia graduate got it into his headand onto glossy paperto extract a single, minutely thin circle of color from every image of a film. The resulting striated pattern of circles resembles a cross-section of a tree trunk, but instead of a succession of grooves, there’s an astonishing spectrum revealing the chromatic undulations of a film.
For Tournay, color is a language: “You could say that one of the uses of color is that it enables the viewer to differentiate periods, seasons or times of the day.” Even better, the book is also based on the “wheel of emotions” of the psychologist Robert Plutchik, who classified emotional reactions according to a palette of colors. Tournay thus brings out very simple themes: “We notice clearly that science-fiction films have a predominance of rich blue greens, whereas comedies and romantic films are a vibrant orangey and red. A horror film will have unsaturated blues and greens that are cold and deathly pale, and a story taking place in a post-apocalyptic setting will be unsaturated and gray, tainted and sick. Finally, an action film or a drama will be divided into blues and orange.” These colorimetric disks each transcribe the images of a film (around 150,000 for 1 hour 40 minutes), ultimately producing a disconcerting poetry. “The book,” adds the author, “is a nod to the child curious about the cinema that I used to be and a tribute to the huge work done by directors.” This quiet immersion, disrupted only by the rustle of the pages as you leaf through them, is also a lesson in paying attention. Tournay’s work incites us to use all our senses, not only at the cinema and in this original vision, but also in our everyday lives. It is about grasping emotion via all the openings and constantly shifting our measuring instruments.