A House Divided

December 15, 2021 Dec. 15, 2021

With House of Gucci Company 3 senior Colorist Stephen Nakamura teamed with director Ridley Scott and cinematographer Dariusz Wolkski for the epic recounting of deceit and murder within the world’s most famous fashion empire. Based on real events, the film, which stars Lady Gaga, Al Pacino, and Jared Leto, mixes Godfather-style dynastic drama, period docudrama, and dark humor.

The filmmakers created a few different types of looks for the film, which is set in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Wolski has said in recent interviews that much of his work (along with the production and costume designs) was inspired by contemporary work by photographer William Klein. More dramatic moments reminded Nakamura of cinematographer Gordon Willis’s famously shadowy work in the Godfather films. Wolski, the colorist, says, “lit some parts a lot darker than he normally does. There are scenes where you can’t see the full side of faces. It’s not everywhere, but it works perfectly in the scenes he and Ridley chose to shoot that way.”

An interesting technical point: A portion of the film includes sections in black-and-white. Nakamura explains that preserving the sense of pure black-and-white, which was essential to the filmmakers, actually involved him pumping a small amount of color into the otherwise monochromatic images.

“When you intercut black-and-white into a color film,” he explains, “you don’t really want to cut right to pure black and white if you want it to feel like pure black and white to the viewer. Say you’re coming off a color scene that’s predominantly cold and then cut to black-and-white, you have to drive the black-and-white a little colder because if you don’t, it’s actually going to feel like it has a warm tint. And of course, if the scene is warm, you push the black-and-white in that direction. It takes a few seconds for your eyes to adjust to what ‘normal’ is.”

Most importantly, Nakamura sums up, “It’s just a really good movie — powerful filmmaking and excellent performances. It was a joy to work on.”