Oscars: <I>Anatomy of a Fall</I> colorist Magali Léonard
February 26, 2024

Oscars: Anatomy of a Fall colorist Magali Léonard

Anatomy of a Fall is nominated for five Oscars, and recently won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Justine Triet and set in France, the feature centers on a woman accused of murdering her husband and the subsequent trial.

Anatomy of a Fall was graded at M141 with Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Studio. 

“Justine and director of photography (DP) Simon Beaufils contacted me early on during the camera tests, prior to the commencement of filming,” explains colorist Magali Léonard of Chroma Shapers. “I had previously collaborated on the grade for Justine’s film Sibyl, which Simon also lensed. This project marked my second collaboration with Justine and my sixth with Simon.”

Triet envisioned a raw, contrasting narrative that embraced imperfections and blemishes, creating something carnal and sensual. This vision was particularly prominent in the trial scenes, characterized by flushed skin tones, perspiration and palpable exhaustion.

“I channeled that and Simon’s direction into the visuals, paying particular attention to the faces and skin tones,” recalls Léonard. “We collaborated closely in establishing a look, starting with extensive camera tests during preproduction involving hair, makeup and costumes.”

In the early stages of the project, DP Beaufils shot tests on 2-perf 35mm film so that Léonard could get close to how film looked when calibrating the digital camera tests. 

“This served as our foundation to find the film’s mood and visual identity,” she notes.

Triet and Beaufils opted for a large format camera with Hawk V lite anamorphic lenses, despite the film’s aspect ratio of 1.85. 

“The anamorphic lenses brought a richness of colors, flares and unique blurs to help soften the sensor’s digital sharpness,” the colorist explains. “Simon was fantastic to collaborate with, crafting beautiful images which conveyed complex emotions.”
Léonard says her approach to the visuals was iterative, playing with contrast using DaVinci Resolve’s custom curves, and then colors, saturation and highlights. 

“I’d then add grain to create a more pronounced look, which we applied from the rushes onward, giving us a good basis for the film’s general mood.”

In the later stages of the DI, Léonard returned to the nodes used to establish the look to fine tune her work. 

“I ventured into bolder suggestions, working to nuance the highlights and specular lights while adding subtle diffusion. For example, we pushed the saturation in the blues while retaining a rawness present in the set design and costumes.”

For the court scenes, the grade evolved as the hearing unfolds towards a heavier and more golden atmosphere. 

“It was important to accentuate the actors’ faces while maintaining the initial appearance of a slightly rough and textured visual, a palpable and living material,” reveals Léonard. “I liked the idea of allowing the images to express their best potential as the story unfolds.”

During the grade, the team went to the Max Linder cinema several times to watch the film in theatrical conditions. This allowed Léonard to then make finer adjustments.

“For example, we noted through those screenings that some scenes would benefit from more saturation or contrast.”
In addition to its nomination for Best Motion Picture, Anatomy of a Fall is Oscar nominated for Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Sandra Hüller); Achievement in Directing (Justine Triet); Achievement in Film Editing (Laurent Sénéchal); and Original Screenplay (Justine Triet and Arthur Harari).