Peeping Tom (1960)
A photographer's joy
28 June 2015
I had a rather odd viewing of this film in that I half-watched it at a the house of friend of mine who happens to be colour-blind. We were talking and the sound was down for much of the time and I didn't see the beginning or the end. But what I saw mesmerised me.

Having not really caught much of the plot except for moments when my host was making tea, I am reminded more of Blow-Up, made several years later, than of any other film. The main character of the film seemed to be photography itself, and the psychology of the antihero and his victims faded into insignificance in the fragmented view of the film that I had.

Not only did cameras abound in the film, and were at once the means of vision - both in the sense of the making of film itself and also in the sense of being the main agency in allowing the protagonist to fulfil his aims - they are perhaps also cyphers for seeing and for viewpoint and for perspective and outlook, drawing the viewer into a world of questions on these subjects.

What fascinated me most about the film though was the colour. This was frustrated by my only having my colour-blind friend to discuss it with, and while he does see quite a lot of colours he doesn't see them all and this undermines his interest in colour generally.

This film was made long after 2-colour films were obsolete, yet the film is shot to look like 2-colour Technicolor. IMDb credits it as using Eastmancolor 35mm film, so the colour set-ups in the film are self-consciously reproducing an earlier era of film by controlled use of hair colourings, set design, light gels and costume. The palette of the film is fascinating and beautiful, revisiting the stylised colour gamut which had decades earlier - after it's initial impact - come to leave film audiences unsatisfied by its unrealism. By the time this film was shot audiences were accustomed to rich full-spectrum photography and the colouring of the film subverts that, while highlighting the beauty of the older films at their best with, perhaps, an added glow that memory and nostalgia and better technology can create.

Having missed most of the plot of the film, I have no idea if this colour lushness is purely a sensual layer of technical beauty this film is imbued with or whether it has an important interaction with the film's philosophical or psychological elements - but it sure was good to look at.
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