Video Essay - for analytical and educational purposes only, no copyright infringement intended.
The striking colors in Wim Wenders' PARIS TEXAS (1984) are often analyzed according to the preconceived notion of "red, white and blue" vs "green neon light" and the alleged meaning those color schemes transport. However, I see a more intuitive and much more complex use of colors at work in this film. That's why I've started to put together two video essays the first of which is concerned with COLORED LIGHTING IN PARIS, TEXAS.
It is basically a supercut that showcases cinematographer Robby Müller's use of colored lighting that is found in roughly a quarter of the two and a half hour film. The selected shots are arranged in a non-chronological way that hopefully reveals recurring patterns of lighting by juxtaposing similar as well as contrasting setups. In addition, I have tried to follow the visual flow of gazes and movement to create unexpected relationships between unconnected shots.
Since I am more interested in the atmospheric and emotional effects of colored light which I want you to experience for yourself, I deliberately abstained from written or spoken explanations.
Instead, I invite you to discover the sensations, patterns and concepts on your own and encourage you to watch PARIS, TEXAS again with this in mind.
But for those without the patience to watch the essay more than once, here are some aspects to look for:
Light sources: traffic lights, especially red ones (00:00), neon signs and advertisements behind characters (00:22).
Green neon light which is most often just normal "white" neon light that Robby Müller decided not to color correct because he embraced the well-known effect that it would look green on film (0:29). This section also showcases the powerful green lights vs red objects scheme.
Characters in light (Anne) or silhouette (Travis) against green background lighting (00:37). Rim lights on characters: warm side lighting (left and right) against warm light in the middle (0:49), then overall beige vs blue with garish yellow light/objects against darkness and red rims (1:02). Round blue city lights vs rim lights on characters (01:10).
Primary Colors: red vs blue vs yellow (01:15) as well as blue vs green vs red (01:25). Green light again: this time towards red light (01:37). Green, red and blue: from neon to nature (01:49).
Light sources as visual patterns (02:00)
Similar color schemes with dominating green (02:09).
Primary colors: blue vs yellow vs red from different scenes showing the tension between these characters (02:15). The loneliness of flamboyant red and blue (02:25). Walking away (02:31)
I added mirror images in order to highlight frame edges and direct the viewer's attention away from single shots to overall patterns. In keeping with that concept, the swelling sounds that announce the visual cuts are in fact acoustic mirror images (played backwards) of the corresponding guitar notes on which I cut (Ry Cooder's opening music).
My other video essay on PARIS, TEXAS will be about yellow - a color that has been mostly neglected in previous analyses.