10 Great Modern Black and White Movies


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Look around at the current crop of standalone releases and everything is black and white. Ben Wheatley takes us back to the time of the English Civil War in a monochrome picture in A-field England; Joss Whedon updated Much Ado About Nothing in Southern California, linking Shakespeare to the spiraling Hollywood tradition of the 1930s through black and white photography; While Pablo Berger’s Black and White Blancanieves is a new Spanish silent melodramatic version of the Snow White story.

Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach’s new film (The Squid and the Whale), is the latest film to give away color, channeling the free and open spontaneity of the French New Wave to its story about a 27-year-old dancer with no direction (played by Greta Gerwig) living in New York.

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French New Wave. Silent melodrama. The comedy of foolishness. Could the sudden rise in black and white filmmaking be simply an attempt to relive the glories of cinematic pasts?

Although Technicolor’s first full-length tricolor, Becky Sharp, arrived in 1935, it took several decades before color completely surpassed black and white in numbers, with color initially reserved for expensive prestige films, or Western films. And the musicals seen benefit from shiny new technology.

When Billy Wilder’s The Apartment won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1960, no one thought twice about it being black and white. Even in the early 1960s, it was still often an either/or condition. But only two black-and-white films have won best picture ever since: Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993) and Michel Hazanavicius’ euphoric tribute to silent filmmaking, The Artist (2011). Sometime during the 1960s, black and white began to be associated with either subtlety or cheapness.

However, there has been a steady stream of great black and white films since then. The faucet is currently running at full power, but there is no less than a drop. Below we feature 10 of the best shows from the past 20 years, while Schindler’s List broke the best monochromatic commentary in 1994.

Ed Wood (1994)

Ed Wood (1994)

Tim Burton made his cinematic first steps in black and white, with two stop-motion animated shorts, Vincent (1982) and Frankenweni (1984). By 1994, with the successful successes of Batman (1989) and Edward Scissorhands (1990) behind him, he had enough commercial clout to embark on a feature-length production of monochrome, a biographical bargaining exploit filmmaker in the basement behind such infamous productions as Glenn or Glenda (1953) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1956): Edward D. Wood Jr.

With a crazed glint in his eye, Johnny Depp plays the cross-dressed author, while Martin Landau plays Bella Lugosi, a washed-up horror star who finds a new home in Wood’s wild, rubbery illusions. Burton went back to black and white for a full version of Frankenweenie in 2012, certainly the world’s first monochrome 3D animated film.

La Haine (1995)

Director: Matthew Kasowitz

La Haine (1995)
La Haine (1995)

French cinema of the 1980s and early 1990s was marked by the colorful, hyper-styled, visual films of directors such as Luc Besson and Léos Carax – the creators of the so-called Cinéma du look.

A thunderbolt out of the blue, director Mathieu Kassovitz’s urban drama La Haine (literally, Hate) arrived in 1995, its pick-and-list power amplified by the tale of disaffected youth on the outskirts of Paris portrayed in a steely monochrome. Inspired by a real-life case of police brutality, she introduced Vincent Cassel to the world, as one of three rage-filled people living in a multi-ethnic housing project. A correction to the glamorous, bourgeois vision of life in the City of Light so commonly portrayed in cinema, Kasowitz’s film Burning Youth is a compelling slice of life. She dares to confront the image of “life in recovery” with a confrontational image of a violent and apartheid society.

Pleasantville (1998)

Pleasantville (1998)

This delightful, full-color comic tale begins in 1998, when he was an introvert, TVWatching teen David (Tobey Maguire) and his sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) magically transition into a rerun of a black and white 1950s sitcom called Pleasantville. It all seems like this in this small cookie-cutter town, where family values ​​reign, nothing disturbs the corrugated roof, and firefighters are mainly scaling trees to save kittens.

Like the time-traveling classic Back to the Future (1985), Gary Ross plays on the nostalgia of the good days of the 1950s, but cleverly subverts this backward impulse by showing how this world is changing of conservatism and parochialism. by its visitors from the future. As felt by the modernization effect of David and Jennifer on the community, Pleasantville gradually introduces splashes of color into its monochrome palette, a great cinematic stunt to prove that – when it comes to a few things – time is never flat.

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

From Condemnation (1988) through his seven-hour Sátántangó (1994) to his latest film, The Turin Horse (2011), black and white has always been essential to the mood in the uniquely apocalyptic universe of Hungarian maestro Bella Tar.

Starting with an impromptu pub demo of the motion of orbs (one of the most important movie openings of all time), this highly mystical thriller hinges on events that take place in a remote community after a circus of attractions brings the body of a whale to town. Composed in Tarr’s trademark Werckmeister Harmonies are slow-motion tracking shots, a bleak but charming vision of life at the end of its rope, like no one else but Tarr could have made. After Pleasantville on this list, it’s fun to imagine what teens David and Jennifer could have made of this vulnerable world of oddity and awe, TV Instead, I transported them to this frigid outpost on the galactic plains.

The saddest music in the world (2003)

The saddest music in the world (2003)

Jay Madin is another modern director who has made the majority of his films in black and white, all the better to imitate the dim and shady world of silent films and monochromatic melodramas that he loves so much. This 2003 movie is set in Winnipeg (Madden’s hometown) at the end of Prohibition, when Baroness Helen Burt Huntley (Isabella Rossellini) announces a contest to find the world’s saddest music, which finds songs and bands. From all over the world they compete in a kind of World Cup of woe music. the prize? 25,000 Depression-era dollars.

Filtered by nostalgia for a bygone era of filmmaking, the blurred and archaic visuals stimulate a psychedelic and psychedelic dream vision of this strange outpost of humanity, chiefly bleak as Tarr in the Werckmeister Harmonies, but madness and madness where the Hungarians are frank and stereotypical.

Mutual appreciation (2005)

Director: Andrew Bojalski

Mutual appreciation (2005)

Where does chess need colors other than black and white? Director Andrew Bojalski filmed his latest movie — Computer Chess, the story of an 80s chess competition between man and machine — on old analog cameras, basking in its grainy retro aesthetic. But he’s no stranger to monochrome, following his 2002 debut Funny Ha Ha with a lo-fi story about the complex lives of young New Yorkers.

Typical of films labeled “mumblecore,” the dialogue pauses in “mutual estimation,” and begins, stumbles, falters, and its uptight young metropolitan heroes stumble on their way to expressing their thoughts. However, in both picture and sound, Bujalski’s film is more rough and ready-made than the films of his contemporaries, going back to John Cassavetes of Shadows (1959) and Faces (1968) with high-contrast, 16mm handheld shooting. The story walks around with much of the same lack of direction that its characters share; Instead, Bujalski lets their shortcomings and feelings speak.

Control (2007)

Director: Anton Corbijn

Control (2007)

When you listen to Joy Division’s stark, deserted music, it seems to come in black and white, so fitting, when he turned to autobiography of tragic frontman Ian Curtis for his directorial debut, photographer Anton Corbijn (who shot the band during his early career) You’ll opt for high-contrast monochrome – it’s best to capture the band’s post-punk performances in all their intense smoky and lit up.

Starring Sam Riley as Curtis and Samantha Morton as his beleaguered wife Deborah (who co-wrote the screenplay based on her memoir “Touch from a Distance”), it charts the band’s rise to prominence in the late 1970s in Manchester, followed by Curtis’ increasingly divided mental health. Ultimate suicide. Done with period specifics in mind, it makes for a violent drama where the dynamic power of visuals and perfect performance help counteract the underlying grief. As critic Peter Bradshaw noted in the Guardian: “Control is a film about England, about music, about loneliness and love; it has melancholy, but there is also a roar of energy. I thought it might bother me. Instead I let the cinema go on air.”

In Search of a Midnight Kiss (2007)

Director: Alex Holdridge

In Search of a Midnight Kiss (2007)

Alex Holdridge won the 2008 John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award for his charming debut about 29-year-old Wilson (Scott McEnery), who moves to Los Angeles, only to find himself alone and penniless. New Year’s Eve celebrations. After being persuaded to post a personal announcement, kooky encounters Vivian (Sarah Symonds) and the pair tour town to get to know each other as the year winds up in its final hours.

Reminiscent of Richard Linklater Before Sunrise (1995), it’s a sprawling, quiet romance that succeeds cinematically because of its gorgeous two-tone portrayals of downtown Los Angeles. While the City of Angels isn’t popular with wanderers, the couple’s street-level wanderlust gives Holdridge an excuse to make a black-and-white love letter to the city’s glamor at night, mapping out the lights, signs, marquees, amusement parks and rundown theaters that other films forget. Filled with quirky quirks typical of the current we Independent cinema, however, has an unexpectedly affecting Holdridge film as this long night of two souls passes gently into the dawn.

The White Ribbon (2009)

Director: Michael Haneke

The White Ribbon (2009)

A period drama made with a scalpel, Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or-winning masterpiece is a frightening hike of rock over an ostensibly peaceful Protestant village in rural Germany in the years leading up to World War I. Beneath the quiet surface, unexplained accidents happen to children, as if some kind of organized punishment was inflicted upon society. But by whom? And why?

Haneke’s movie doesn’t offer easy answers; Instead, returning to his favorite themes of oppression, guilt, and denial, a fearful sense of anxiety and pernicious morality mounts that draws the whole of society into a vortex of guilt. Haneke’s regular cinematographer, Christian Berger, matches the Austrian author’s stark look with crisp, clear monochrome images.

Tabu (2012)

Tabu (2012)

Just as the artist took us back to the era of silent filmmaking with his loving tribute to the advent of sound in Hollywood, Miguel Gomez’s one-of-a-kind Tabo fantasy attacker Murnau’s late romance in the silent age of the tropical island Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931) is a story of unrequited love in colonial Africa.

Filmed in black and white throughout, it begins with full sound in contemporary Lisbon, where Aurora, a glamorous octogenarian who knows she’s dying, asks her neighbor to seek out an old acquaintance from her time in Africa. In a flashback, we are then told the story of Aurora’s illicit love for an explorer on her farm at the foot of Mount Tabu. In this second half of the film, Gomez mimics the muted drama of silent cinema, but includes the ambient sounds of the savannah, creating an entirely original and illusory texture for his bleak, funny, and offbeat bush-dwelling appendix.

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