For those who care: there may be spoilers in the text.
The whole movie DiCaprio runs away, and Tom Hanks diligently catches up with him! It would seem that the film is an adventure, massive, simple and understandable, but even there there is something to look at in terms of work in the frame and color schemes. In this sense, “Catch me if you can” is a kaleidoscope: there are enough different tricks with light, the shots are curious, and the work is masterful.
This is another text of a permanent column in which I analyze films from the point of view of color and frames. The previous one can be read here. Let’s go in order!
Stitching the picture with color, the director chose a blue thread as one of the main ones. The film begins with frames painted in a twilight hue. They pop up from time to time throughout the story. Curiously, Spielberg lays out the palette, giving vent to everything from light azure to deep purple.
Blue is considered one of the most melancholy colors. It can be assumed that the director chose him as one of the main characters in the film for a reason: the main character is lonely and constantly runs away for the entire period of his life shown, looking for support and does not receive it. It can be assumed that it was this mood that the costume designer was trying to convey.
In different scenes of the film, you can see how a warm neighbor is added to one of the dominant colors. Moreover, also in different tonalities and with different strengths of color intensity. The complimentary combination of blue and yellow is not new, but generally long-established. You can read more about it here, these colors complement each other.
The second thread, which the author armed himself with, changes from warm ocher to emerald green. In the moments where the dominant blue leaves the stage, the film is most often tinted in shades of green, yellow, emerald, orange, etc.
Curiously, the proportions of green and orange change depending on the mood and state of the protagonist. Yellow, warm shades are about peace and lightness. The periods of emotional decline of DiCaprio’s hero also change the palette of the frame, diverting the color into green tones. This is especially noticeable in the last of the selected scenes, where the main character lost everything and landed in jail. The stage is painted in poisonous green colors.
To keep the film from being a one-color canvas, Spielberg dilutes the dominant colors and reveals other color combinations. So, in “Catch Me If You Can”, a well-established combination of red and green appears. As a rule, it is brought by accent details in the frame: the colors of the car or the dress on the girl.
In several scenes, red harmoniously sets off the dominant blue. Take a closer look at the bluish color of the suit on DiCaprio, or the color of the floor, which was tinted in azure to emphasize the hero’s red-orange polo.
Patterned inclusions in the right places make the canvas of the picture complete. Cherries, without which the cake seems empty. We are talking about extravaganza shots, where the director connects everything at once, skillfully creating an incredible picture for the viewer.
Here is a shot in the main character’s apartment, where the walls visually divide the picture into several parts. In one of them, warm orange is adjacent to green, and in the other, a blue beam pierces a sunny yellow window. This technique makes the picture even more contrast: from warm on the left side of the frame to cold on the right. The picture becomes filled: imagine a frame without a beam of light from the window and lit lamps.
In another frame, the combination of red and blue is the basis, and the green tint of the surrounding space enhances the combination. In fact, these are the classic RGB color supports — Red, Green, Blue.
They can also be seen in the scene where DiCaprio’s character watches expectantly from the car (and again the blue shirt). Only here yellow is added, due to the taxi in the background.
Each of the three enchanting color moments plays on the basis of the emotions of the main characters. Not only creates a wow effect, but also enhances the perception of the viewer. In the first case — the moment of a fatal turn in the fate of the still young hero; then — his emotional decline and the search for a new life, an attempt to arrange it; finally, a shot in the car — framed by bright elements, DiCaprio’s deep puzzlement, the search for a way out of the situation. And he is still in it — a lonely blue element.
Directors, photographers and artists with a good eye and a full hand use not only classical methods of composition and framing, but also author’s solutions. So, the reception of visual presence could already be observed as one of the tools of Wes Anderson.
Spielberg also uses this feature often. The essence is simple: in the foreground there is a person out of focus, as if standing in front of the viewer, due to which what is happening on the screen seems close to the viewer. And if in the case of Wes the reception was played very differently (even with only one hand with a newspaper in the frame), then Spielberg is more conservative in this matter! He always has a classic story with the character’s head (or part of it) in the frame in the foreground.
The second characteristic technique throughout the film, which is also worth adopting, is working with side light. More than once or twice the director uses such a scheme, in which the light source is on the same level with the subject, while on the side of it.
Side light adds drama to the scene, and contrast and shadows to the character in the frame. In the case of Catch Me If You Can, such a move could be used to emphasize the difficult path of the protagonist, his throwing, experiences and drama of constant movement in life. Most often, Spielberg put the side light in especially emotional moments, or in scenes where there is a complex dialogue between the characters.
An artistic offshoot of just side light is shooting with a directional beam that emphasizes what is needed in the frame. This can be achieved by using a photo torch or curtains on the light source. In this picture, the technique is played up in scenes with the main character: in each of them, the light directs the viewer’s attention to DiCaprio’s face and emphasizes the emotions he experiences.
In addition to the basic techniques for working with picture and light, there are several less significant episodes in Catch Me If You Can. However, they are also worth paying attention to. Techniques from these moments can be repeated on photography and get cool shots.
one) Shooting through a window. The reception is known to many, however, it is important to dwell on it. Many photographers take close-up portraits through the windows of coffee shops and bars, in the glass doors of the old stock and shopping centers.
Glass, like a filter, slightly smoothes the picture, and can also add beautiful reflections to photos, glare from the opposite.
2) A ray of light. Pay attention to the organic nature of what is happening in the film: the hero of Tom Hanks is sitting in a long-closed office, continuing to work. Outside the windows, the evening is already coming, which paints everything in blue tones, and from the light sources there is only a lamp on his desk.
In the frame, not only visual contrast is obtained due to bright and dark, but also a play of light is added, which should be used in such shootings.
The best advice for applying this technique is to shoot at night (or in a dark room), so you get the necessary contrast and the right blueness, which can already be countered by a warm light source.
3) Large portrait. A common mistake many photographers make is being afraid or not being able to crop. A close-up portrait of a face can be beautiful, especially if you capture a strong emotion. Framing is worth learning from Spielberg: the border of the frame runs exactly above the eyebrows, which looks organic.
four) Shooting from below. Visually, the angle below the person enhances the neck and chin, which can be fraught with a visual increase, so this technique should be used very carefully, and the degree of inclination should not be taken large. Spielberg takes this angle on the character of DiCaprio and his father at the moment of the conversation, when they are surrounded by the skyscrapers of the city.
The angle from below is worth taking when there is something to show from above. Moreover, it can be either a portrait against the sky (to avoid houses in the frame), or vice versa, an emphasized industrial background.
5) Proportions and mirrors. This technique is suitable for shooting a couple. Many interior studios have mirrors. But do not go straight along the path, shooting the reflection of the couple in them — put one in front, and catch the second in the mirror. Visually it will look stronger.
Another interaction option is playing with the middle and foreground: the silhouette of the second person in the distance will be noticeably smaller than the figure of the hero in the foreground. It can be a single shot, and the second character can be a random passer-by who fits into the frame in the background.