3. Stranger Than Paradise
2. Pineapple Express
3. Ed Wood
2. The Man Who Wasn’t There
Now yours. Remember, you can’t pick anything before 1980, and more importantly you must explain why these movies have to be in black and white. Because we have color film these days, and not using all of those colors we have now is a conscious choice. So why is it necessary that your picks appear in b&w? Listen to the show to hear us explain ours, stumble around a movie that was taken off the table, and pick a movie that is definitely not in black and white. Also, tune in to hear our great listener picks. Tune in? Did I really say that again? Oy.
As usual, send in your picks for the next topic to [email protected]. We love it when you do.
You know, the only one that came to mind was Tetsuo, the Iron Man, which I think I saw at a cinema and draft house back in the early 90s. It’s possible it would have made an equal impression on my fragile psyche without the pitchers or beer, or maybe it would have made more.
But my other picks would be Raging Bull and Schindler’s List, neither of which I have actually seen all the way through.
I almost picked Following as one of mine, but I ended up disqualifying it because, though it looks great in black & white, I know that it was shot that way because Nolan only had $6,000 to film it with.
Oh crap, Clerks! I forgot about that one. I’m not a massive Kevin Smith fan, but I loved that movie. The black and white film was a budget choice, but it worked out well since the “set” was the actual convenience store where Smith worked and presumably he would not have been able to dress the set with more/less vivid color. Possibly a lucky coincidence, but I thought the greyscale worked well.
For my choice of Tetsuo, the Iron Man above, the black and white may also have been technical rather than artistic: the bizarre and extreme gore and human/machine hybrid stuff in that film looked horrific in B&W, but in color it probably would have just looked stupid and (more) fake.
Wings of Desire is my pick. The black and white is perfect for the scenes with the angelic observers and color works great once our hero “passes over”. This is one of my favorite movies of all time. Still can’t believe that piece of shit, “City of Angels” was actually made. What an embarrassment compared to this work of art. YMMV, of course. This really needs to be seen in a theater, but it should be seen by anyone who loves film as an art form.
There’s a Belgian satirical mockumentary about a serial killer called Man Bites Dog from the 90s.
I’m fairly sure it was shot B&W for budgetary reasons but, from distant memory, it doesn’t want for shock impact being in greyscale. It also contains some interesting comment on the viewer/participant relationship (a bit like Hanneke’s Funny Games) and general desensitisation to violence, but I can’t honestly recommend watching it.
+1 for Man Who Wasn’t There. It’s period noir. You kind of have to do it B&W.
Some really good ones have already been mentioned: Dead Man, Man Bites Dog and Clerks would have been my choices. I feel like mentioning Dark and Stormy Night, though. It’s really campy, but I like it.
Persopolis - This animated version of the graphic novel is great and makes some interesting use of the limited color palatte, which, granted, are somewhat taken straight from the book (also black and white). The most striking example I remember are the Catholic nuns designs, solid black with no delineation, that allows their bodies to curve and slither like snakes as they threaten and judge main character Marji. Trailer:
Get A Horse (Mickey Mouse short before Frozen) - As usual, I like to break topic, but I just saw this and it’s really great. A lot of my enjoyment came from not knowing anything about it, so avoid reading about it if you can (ie. stop here). It starts out as a perfect homage/re-creation of a Steamboat Willie style Mickey short, which would be enough for my endorsement, but it takes some interesting turns without completely losing its charm.
Tripletts of Bellville - Another homage to the olden days of animation highlights the opening to this movie. NSFW and probably insensitive/offensive for modern tastes, it still makes me smile.
Finally got a chance to listen to the podcast. I liked the oblique reference to Calvin and Hobbes. Tom, don’t click this link comparing The Man Who Wasn’t There’s original/production color to the final awesome B&W shots.
The dialog and acting would have been the same, but the cinematography would have been drastically worse, like Tin Wisdom said. Imagine: Clerks looking cheap and amateurish! But bad as in looking like an early '90s Sci-Fi Channel movie, not as in grainy 16 mm.
My 1-3 were taken by everyone else already. Runner up not yet mentioned (edit: almost not yet mentioned): This year’s cover of Much Ado About Nothing.
I certainly would never insist that Shakespeare adaptations must be filmed in B&W. But, as has been noted, “in black and white, the ideas behind the art are communicated more directly. Meaning transcends form. Art approaches language.” (McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics; the Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerennial., 1993.) So while there are plenty of versions of Shakespeare on screen or stage that you can see in color, this version was likely produced in B&W for two reasons. The first is probably financial: it was directed quickly by some guy in his house with his friends and co-workers. Secondly, and possibly more importantly, maybe the director wanted to privilege the text of the play, the dialogue of the play, which sounds unnatural in these times. As color always (obviously) feels more real, maybe the color was leeched out of the production to aid the audience with identifying with the characters and, hell, understanding the lines. Hypothetical audience member: “Well, it sounds weird because they talk funny, but then they look funny too because there’s no color. Maybe I should pay more attention to what they’re saying even though it’s something out of a grandpa movie and, heck, this is pretty funny!”
For reference, this was the list that fire was referring to. Was the Good German worth watching?