Color in Do the Right Thing

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Jionne McMichael
November 17, 2012
Art of Film
Color As A Formalistic Device in Do The Right Thing
Spike Lee presents his "truth" about race relations in his movie Do the Right Thing. The film illustrates the spectacle of black discrimination and racial altercations and portrayed the “true” realities of an African American living in the 1980s. The movie is set in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York on the hottest day in the summer where racial tensions are growing. Spike Lee uses color dramatically to help illustrate and emphasize these growing tensions that ultimately escalates to violence and tragedy and also, to help emphasize emotions.

Color, as defined by Gianetti, is a realist technique but can be formalist having a subconscious impact on the viewer. There are two types of colors; warm and cool. Warm colors stress adjectives such as violence, stimulation, aggressiveness etc. Cool colors stress adjectives such as serenity, tranquility etc. Spike Lee definitely embraces this by using the elements of both warm and cool colors to emphasize the theme of escalating racial tensions that come to a climax at the end of the movie. In addition, it emphasizes the weather and the heat with bright tones. The color red is used symbolically to convey a variety of emotions. Mood and tone are created by this use of color. As racial tensions escalate, the color continues to visually dramatize what is going on in the minds of the characters as well as what is occurring in each scene. From its first frame, the energetic credit sequence in which actress Rosie Perez dances in a red bodysuit vibrantly to Public Enemy's powerful anthem "Fight the Power," against a rear-screen backdrop that is lit in vivid blues and reds, right to its final shot. The film is an explosion of bright and warm colors and glows in an almost burning-furnace light full of vibrant red, orange, and yellow hues. In the first scenes, yellow light pours through windows of...
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