Monday, October 21, 2013
Movie Monday: The "Right There in Black and White" Edition
Several times, I've had people tell me that they just won't watch a movie that is in black and white. Won't do it. Has to be in color for them to even think about watching.
I have to be honest, here, and say that I just don't understand that sentiment at all.
I mean, look at how many great movies they are denying themselves. And not even old movies. Of course they'll miss "Casablanca" and "It Happened One Night" and "The Passion of Joan of Arc" and "King Kong" (the original" and "The Mummy" and "Dracula" (both of those the originals, too). There is "Double Indemnity" and all of the other film noirs that came out of the 1940s and 1950s. And virtually all of the films from the silent era, although there are some partial exceptions. The list could go on and on and on.
But they'll also miss out on movies like "Ed Wood" (from 1994) and "The Elephant Man" (1980) and "Schindler's List" (1993). Well, "Schindler's List" has a bit of color in a couple of scenes, but is primarily in black and white. There's even the very new version of "Much Ado About Nothing" that was made in black and white.
I love black and white films. Some of my favorites are in black and white, in fact. There's "The Mummy" (1932), which I mentioned previously. And "Casablanca" (1942), also referred to above. And, from more recently, there is The Beatles' first film, "A Hard Day's Night" (1964). I just watched that again the other night and enjoyed it as much as I do every time I see it.
The thing is, it isn't just the story content of those films that make them so good. In the best films, the black and white photography itself is gorgeous, especially if you're seeing a good print. A couple of examples are probably in order.
First, here's a scene from the final moments of "Casablanca":
In this scene from "Stagecoach" (1939), there is a much bigger problem between the quality of scenes shot in the studio versus the beautiful photography of scenes shot on location in Monument Valley than there is with the fact that the film is in black and white. This isn't even the best quality black and white photography I've seen in films, but the location photography is beautiful even so:
Here is the trailer for "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951). This clip shows how black and white photography handles different environments - daylight, nighttime, inside, outside - and how well it does so. Bear with the few seconds of blank screen near the beginning of the clip. It is intentional:
Although this scene from "A Hard Day's Night" makes my point about black and white photography, I'm mostly including it because it is one of my favorite scenes in the film:
And, finally, I'm including this short clip from the most recent black and white film that I know of, Joss Whedon's production of "Much Ado About Nothing":