Talking Colour: Rememering the Eastmancolor Revolution

Paul Frith, Keith M. Johnston

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This video essay is a response to the journal’s call for work that considers the intersection of ideology, technology and aesthetic histories. The essay explores the story of Eastmancolor in Britain by contrasting and comparing the experiences of three areas of industry work affected by Eastmancolor film stock: cinematographers, laboratory staff, and archivists.

The discourse that emerges from the interplay of these interviews shows how films and practices were affected when Eastmancolor offered a challenge to the prevailing principles of restraint and realism within British cinema. Specifically, the essay considers the industrial and aesthetic politics that emerged when Eastmancolor began to challenge the Technicolor monopoly; the efforts of cinematographers, directors and laboratories to explore and control the aesthetic opportunities this new film stock offered; and the digital technologies being utilised to unlock the now-faded status of many of those Eastmancolor productions.

From industry politics and aesthetic challenges to ethical debates around the use of digital tools to produce an ‘authentic’ chromatic record and claims of ownership of the ‘accurate’ version of a film, the essay uses the voices of industry workers to offer a different and potent perspective on colour as a disruptive force within British national cinema.

This videographic work was produced as part of the AHRC-funded project ‘The Eastmancolor Revolution and British Cinema, 1955-85’.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrames Cinema Journal
Issue number17
Early online date27 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2020


  • British cinema
  • Eastmancolor
  • colour cinema
  • laboratory
  • film archive
  • cinematography

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