Black and White Film-A-Thon

Joeseph Campanella, a blogger over at Film-A-Thon and CinemaFist, has started a fun little project in which each week he introduces a theme and invites bloggers to recommend films within it. This week’s theme is “black and white,” and for my contribution, I tried to look at films not just because they were great films that happened to be black and white, but great films because they were black and white. So, with that in mind, here is my contribution:

(I have such a tough time ranking things, as any film could easily be on top depending on mood, circumstances, etc., so why don’t I go for reverse alpahbetical, to make things more fair?)

Zelig: Before Forrest Gump made all of his famous run-ins, Woody Allen made this little gem about a chamerleonic man who seemed to manage to hover in the background of some of history’s most prominent places.

The Third Man: I show this one to my film students, and while some cannot get past the Anton Karas score, but all seem to agree the use of shadows and fog elevate this to the top of film noir (even though, I will argue that this is technically not a ‘genre’).

Rashamon: From the torrential shots that bookend the picture, to the stark trial, to the lush scene of the crime, Akira Kurosawa’s masterwork Rashamon works best as black and white for all its shades of gray, both literal and figurative.

Raging Bull: Is it just me, or do cinematic fight scenes look more realistic in black and white? Regardless, it’s hard to pack a more powerful punch than Paul Schrader’s script and Martin Scorsese’s direction.

Psycho: Simply put: as Gus VanSandt has proven to us, this film was meant to be in black and white.

Night of the Living Dead: Drained of all its bloody color, black and white photography gave “Night of the Living Dead” a certain “authenticity” (which is really difficult for a movie about zombies).

Citzen Kane: I know this is a given, but even jaded teens to whom I show this film are still in awe of its sharp contrasts courtesy of the black and white photography, courtesy of the brilliant Greg Toland.

Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: If you can get your hands on the sepia-tinged Kino version (alright, technically not black-and-white, but quit splitting hairs!) of this film, it is recommended (there are so many cheap copies floating around out there. The black and white plunges this world of murky shadows that serve as a tentpole to the German Expressionistic movement.

Dr. Strangelove (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) : Again, empahsizing the “you’re either with us, or you’re with the enemy” mentality of warmongering, this time during the Cold War, “Strangelove” was brutally better in b&w.

Ed Wood: Burton’s finest hour, and perhaps Johnny Depp’s as well, in careers that feature many apexes. Black and white added to the campiness and spirit of the plucky titular director.

Broadway Danny Rose: Another Woody Allen film, this one a cinematic love letter written specifically for romantics who fall in love with the images on the screen. Capturing it in black and white helps to blur that line of fantasy and reality that exists.

~ by usesoapfilm on August 9, 2008.

One Response to “Black and White Film-A-Thon”

  1. […] Kane: lighting & soft focus (source) February 25th, 2010 at 11:48 am tagged cinematography, Gregg Toland, lighting, mise en […]

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