The Coca Cola Kid

The Silver Screen: Approaches to Cinematic Color film series
Friday, January 24, 2014 - 7:00pm

Inspired by the short stories of Australian fiction writer Frank Moorhouse, The Coca Cola Kid is a romantic-comedy about the misadventures of a Coca-Cola Co. executive in Australia. Played by Eric Roberts, the zealous corporate trouble-shooter combines evangelical fervor with a military mindset aimed at colonizing the last corner of Coke-free Australia. Director Dušan Makavejev stated he wanted to make a ‘love poem to Kodak’ by rendering the ‘various hues of the Australian outback’ in the film, but more than this, the taste, color, and even sound of the actual beverage are employed in the film as mediums for communicating ideological notions of American values and unbridled consumerism. The film colors the global crusade of capitalism, its doctrines and system of values, in red, suggesting the same kind of sensory charge Communists invested in the color.

The organization of colors in The Coca-Cola Kid do more than guide the audience’s senses to what is significant in the plot. The film cites the embodied reactions to color and its significance for how audiences perceive films. How color is invoked and utilised in The Coca-Cola Kid suggests a vested interest in the stakes and liabilities of the film medium, raising questions about the way films elicit responses from viewers and specifically how color is experienced – physiologically, sensually and emotionally.

(Dušan Makavejev, 1985, 35 mm, 98 min., courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts)

Preceded by shorts TBD.

This 2-part series is presented in conjunction with the Department of Cinema and Media Studies 2014 Graduate Student Conference, The Silver Screen: Theories and Histories of Cinematic Color (April 4-5). “Imagine a world alive with incomprehensible objects and shimmering with an endless variety of movement,” Stan Brakhage wrote, “and innumerable gradations of color.” This conference seeks to re-imagine the innumerable gradations of color in the history and theory of cinema. Colors can be “preserved,” “restored,” and “corrected,” but can their cultural meanings? Can we fix color as readily as we can calibrate our television set’s brightness and contrast? After all, color is permanently enmeshed in questions of realism, of spectacle, of film as art and film as industry—questions that this conference regards as catalysts for conversation.

The conference is organized by Hannah Frank (Ph.D. candidate, CMS), Mikki Kressbach (Ph.D. student, CMS), and Zdenko Mandusic (Ph.D. candidate, CMS/Slavic Languages and Literatures), and is co-sponsored by the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, the Franke Institute for the Humanities, the Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies, the Council on Advanced Studies, and the Humanities Division Graduate Student Council.