We sat down with colorist Julian Alary to talk all about Louder Than Bombs, and his work with director Joachim Trier and cinematographer Jakob Ihre.
What was your creative process like working on Louder Than Bombs?
Louder Than Bombs was shot on film. When you get a negative scanned 35mm, I often find that the look is already there, within a very simple process of adding contrast from the flat scan. Of course, if the director/cinematographer says that this scene was supposed to be a lot darker/ moody than when it was shot then you would have to change the scene accordingly, but this didn’t happen very much on LTB.
I come from early telecine old-school grading. I know what an analog image looks like when it comes straight out of the lab and into cinemas. This was what we tried to do on Louder Than Bombs. Simplicity is the essential process: contrast, nice skin tones and nothing fancy. And that is my trademark – a natural look.
We can work on a scene for a whole day to make it right. With Joachim Trier and Jakob Ihre, it’s always to keep the light clean. The walls should be white, the skin should be right and the mood should reflect the given atmosphere in the scene.
How would you describe the look of the film?
The look of the film is hopefully analog. As it would be if it went through a lab process. A print look.
How were you able to use color to help with the narrative and story arc of the characters?
I think the mood is there from the set but we did try to make some situations quite dark/moody. I always like to go dark when I can and when the situation is right. When he sees the cheerleaders we have a lot of colors and when they walk home from the party there is also a lot of tones.
How did you approach the (day)dream sequences?
We worked a lot with that one. And it has, I would say, a typical Trier/Ihre look — dark and not too colorful. We used a lot of shapes and animations here to take down the surrounding light. I was important that her dress would be white and a bit shiny. Trier is very specific about keeping the whites clean.
In what way does the colourist’s work help to compliment the cinematography, production design, and set design?
First of all, it’s about respecting what they’ve done. Many colorists want to leave a trace. They want to add something to show there’s been a colorist at work here which is good for a commercial or music video but not for long format. It takes you away from the story. That’s why I love nice skin tones with all gradients of red, yellow and magenta. That’s also why I love film negative because it has all those colors. It’s richer.
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