Color of Night (1994.)


I spent large part of my childhood imagining things. I’m not speaking about the usual like games, little white lies, bigger and not-so-white-anymore lies and such. I did all of those, like we all did to a degree, but that kind of imagining things wasn’t what I had in mind. The type of imagination that I’m trying to introduce here has something to do with the nature of images and the way that they interact with human, especially children’s, psyche. For bigger part of my life I experienced US only through images that were coming out of the TV-set. These images (and many of them were false in a way that every memory from childhood is inherently nostalgic and therefore false; unless you were abused. If that’s the case I somehow doubt that you’re feeling very nostalgic about it) shoved me every nook and cranny of a far-away land that I knew existed somewhere out there but was so detached from my usual experience that I couldn’t understand it in other way than as a fantasy-land. A place of yearning in which everything was glamorous, alluring and with a tint of larger than life moments spread around here and there. I understood that I was watching movies; it wasn’t as simple as drowning yourself in the narration forgetting what is real and what is not, but I took special interest in paraphernalia of the fictionalized world, in its obvious and not so obvious signals, icons and dynamics.


This need to understand the discursive strategy that governs the world (whether fictional or real it doesn’t really matter) later became a professional obsession but everything started with movies like Color of Night and many like that one that I have seen during the 90’s. Of course, I wasn’t aware of it back then. It took time to consolidate different parts of episteme. To compare what is experience to what is known and what has been imagined. For instance, Color of Night introduced me, young as I was, to a concept of psychologist. It wasn’t just any psychologist, or psychology in itself (Woody Allen had a thing or two to teach me there), no. The main “spin” was the California part in which psychology was imagined as something prestigious, au pair witch doctor, lawyer, architect or some other big-income-generating-profession. It wasn’t even Bruce Willis (in the Color of Night Bruce Willis is hardly anything more than a noir detective with a slightly different suit and a slightly different profession though one must admit that lack of beverages is weird and kinda off-putting) as much as it was Scott Bakula. Scottie-boy was a psychologist (cog-behavioral one iirc) who either came from a rich family (which was never implied in the movie) or made a shitload of money from his practice. One just has to take a peek at the house he lives in to understand why I’m saying this. I guess it was hard not to. His clients were lawyers and daddy’s little boys with gentle, artistic nerves that you could dance around (and collect paychecks) indefinitely. This image continued in various (and numerous) other movies, throughout the entire specter of genres, becoming the dominant paradigm of non-satirical image of psychologists.


During the 90’s I never did understand this image as a construct. I could differentiate between the image of Jean Claude van Damme and the real world out there. He was a fantasy, much like every other action hero was. The Psychologist was just something that was out there. His image didn’t clash with his reality. I couldn’t say otherwise. Hell, what does a kid know about psychologists except that they don’t carry a gun which makes them infinitely more boring than cops. It took me a while to recognize a mechanism of the wish-fulfillment on the work. It took me some more to recognize the mechanism of wish-production at work as well. Color of Night was nothing more than a noir movie which worked with a different set of rules in mind. Instead of a working class hero like a detective without a graduate or post-graduate diploma, we have a different kind of detective, more tightly wound with a dominant zeitgeist of the 90’s – detective of the mind; the guy who lives in houses with pools protected by the sophisticated security systems, the guy who went to Ivy League university and is now trying to capitalize on it. During the 90’s I watched it as a whodunit, later on I watched it as Ivy League- porn. I watched it recently and I was saddened by this shift in my viewpoint. The sad fact that Billy Ray and Matthew Chapman didn’t know their genre-moves well enough didn’t help either. Sometimes I wish that I managed to keep it simple. To watch movies like these as I used to watch them. I guess that those days are gone and that I’ll have to be careful in revisiting childhood friends of mine. One can never know which skeletons he will unbury by his visit.

Director: Richard Rush

Producer: Buzz Feitshans, David Matalon, Andrew G. Vajna

Screenplay: Billy Ray, Matthew Chapman

Starring: Bruce Willis, Jane March, Ruben Blades, Lesley Ann Warren, Scott Bakula, Brad Dourif, Lance Henriksen, Kevin J. O’Connor

Music: Dominic Frontiere

Cinematography: Dietrich Lohmann

Studio: Hollywood Pictures, Cinergi Pictures


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