Features and Columns · Movies

A Tangerine Dream: Colors in the Films of Sean Baker

Pretty cool when they make movies in color, huh?
Sean Baker Color Theory
A24
By  · Published on April 19th, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores how director/cinematographer Sean Baker uses color.


Don’t mind me, I’m just slipping into my 0.5-inch thick rubber hazmat suit because I intend to wade into some spicy discourse.

Not too long ago in this column, I featured a video essay on how documentary realism has become the dominant visual language of modern special effects. And given that, these days at least, the vast majority of blockbusters are special effects-riddled superhero films (or as Last Duel director Ridley Scott calls them “wizard films“), its hard to throw a brick at a multiplex without hitting a washed-out, gray, visually flat studio film. There are exceptions of course, but Mad Max: Fury Road is the exception, not the rule.

All to say: the muddy brown wash can be a bit depressing. Without getting too “old man yells at cloud” about it, it’s wild to think about how the opposite used to be true: Technicolor, the color-iest of color processes, was a mark of quality and prestige. Now, if you want a reminder that yes, they do still make color pictures these days, you need to look outside the multi-million dollar budget rollercoaster.

Case and point: Sean Baker, the director of such vibrant bangers as Tangerine, The Florida Projectand most recently, Red Rocket. If you’re unfamiliar with Baker’s work or you want to see what all the rainbow-hued fuss is about, look no further than the video essay below.

Thanks to Red Rocket, the following is NSFW. You’ve been warned!

Watch “The Colours of Sean Baker”:


Who made this?

This video on the presence and purpose of color in the films of Sean Baker comes courtesy of the fine folks at Little White Lies, a film-obsessed magazine based in the United Kingdom. Luís Azevedo is the director behind this video. You can follow Little White Lies on Twitter here. And you can check out their official website here. You can subscribe to their YouTube account here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).