JOHNNY CHAZZ: Have you ever stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado in
? Perhaps you have heard the rumors or stories revolving around the haunting by Marilyn Monroe’s ghost on the 3rd floor of the hotel. When shooting “Some Like it Hot”, a film full of illness, false accusations and other rumors, Director Billy Wilder and Marilyn Monroe did not exactly see eye to eye when it came to whether the picture should be shot in color or black and white. You see, San Diego, CA ’s contract stated that all of her films were to be shot in color and nothing else as this was where she shined and was most photogenic. Since Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis’ characters were more “realistic” and “feminine” looking in the black and white style, director Wilder decided to film the classic in the black and white motif. Of course, for Marilyn this was not to be. The idea of not filming her in color created a fuming argument as she cursed the set (the hotel also) and the film for years to come. Monroe
Color works fine for so many films but is certainly not a requirement for films today. Filmmakers today need to take a good hard look at the material that they are placing on screen to determine if color or black and white should be implemented. That is to say, when it comes to making decisions about color today, the idea of shooting in black and white should only be used if it would some sort of emotional imagery that color cannot replace. Black and white is truly the prime format for any film-noir genre and one only needs to look back to recent films such as “Sin City” (2004) and “Good Night and Good Luck” (2005) to see that mainstream Hollywood understands the value of the old cliché “black and white with red all over”. It is the subtle use of spot color (red for blood as seen in so many black and white films) that really makes it work on another level all together, but the foundation of black and white gives the pulp feel, the gritty feel and adds a sexy and erotic feeling that only Jessica Alba could bathe in.
|2005's GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK|
Here is a list of black and white films that I would highly recommend for our CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT Audience. Now I appeal to you Jer…. What are your thoughts on the world of black and white film as a tool and a canvas for movies of yesterday and today? Also, what are some of your favorite black and white films over the years and in recent years (since 1980 etc.)?
*** Chazz’s Black and White Film Suggestions and Recommendations:
*** Chazz’s Black and White Film Suggestions and Recommendations:
|2005's SIN CITY|
JER: An excellent and slightly controversial topic this week in deed, JC! I recently revisited an interview by Steven Spielberg for AFI (American Film Institute) where he was mentioning the ‘struggles’ he has within his own home when he wants to show his younger children an older film. The children’s question is always, “Is it a black and white movie?” To which Dad’s reply is simply, “Yes.” The children then argue the point that they do not want to see those kinds of films…Dad’s reply to the moaning and belly-aching? “Too bad, you are going to watch it!” Why does he say that? He wants to raise his children understanding the media and the richness of storylines…be it black and white or color.
To agree with what you mentioned earlier, JC, is that there is a capture of emotions by a mere selection of screen palates. In addition, it would seem as if black and white captures more shadows for facial expressions, lighten or darken the mood of emotions and backdrops surrounding the film and its classic use is best represented to mark an era of filmmaking.
As JC had mentioned, many contemporary filmmakers are actually embracing the use of black and white in the assisting of their story telling. Let’s recall certain highlights of black and white use from director Quentin Tarantino's KILL BILL. To begin with, the film opens in black and white with a bloodied Uma Thurman lying on a dusty church floor. The dark richness of blacks used in this sequence highlights all the bruising details of our heroine’s face…blood, swellness and shadows are dramatically captured as the audience is left to gaze at the gruesome details. Another excellent use of palates is exemplified in what is known as “Chapter Five: Showdown At House of Blue Leaves” in which our heroine is armed with her trusty Hattori Hanzo samurai sword and battles an endless swarm of villains. A scene considered too explicit with a never-ending display of amputations, mutilations and a waterfall display of blood, director Tarantino felt that cutting to black and white during this sequence would lessen the display of crimson red and soften the reaction to just mere blacks and darks for blood would work best… it did. This act probably softened the blow to change the 'Board's' choice from rating this R- rated film to an NC-17.
|2003's KILL BILL: VOL 1|
In 2004, director Stephen Sommers would open VAN HELSING with a homage to the classic Universal Monster films of the 1930’s. At almost 8 minutes of length, the introduction of Dracula, Frankenstein and his Monster along with the laboratory, are all graphically dramatic and well executed... in black and white.
The great Cecil B DeMille realized the impact of technology when he directed a silent black and white version of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS in 1923 and upgraded to a rich color remake in 1956!
In 2007, director Frank Darabont brought forth Stephen King’s THE MIST to theaters… in color. However, an alternative version of the film was offered in black and white and only available for viewing on either the blu-ray disc or a special 2 disc DVD release. Having seen both versions personally, I can understand and grasp the dramatic elements presented the black and white.
Click and enjoy director Frank Darabont's take on presenting a black and white version of THE MIST and why
Having said that, I wonder what other contemporary films would see a dramatic difference in impact if changing from its original color to black and white appearance? Why not try this at home for yourselves? Imagine going to your television set of choice, going to your menu and selecting the color bars and turning them way down until your images go into black and white and now selecting a few movies or films that you would like to see a contrast on…
How do you think JAWS would play out emotionally? Or, what about THE EXORCIST’s tension and build up…would you feel a difference? How about John Carpenter’s THE FOG, Brain De Palma’s THE UNTOUCHABLES or even SCARFACE? Is emotion that critical and obvious when changed by a mere stroke of a brush? A few touches of hews here and there and your view point of a film can change so dramatically?
I, too, would like to end my saying with a few recommendations of my own.
*** Jer’s Black and White Film Suggestions and Recommendations:
SCHINDLER’S LIST, MANHATTAN, SUNSET BOULEVARD, RAGING BULL, PSYCHO, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, ED WOOD, THE ELEPHANT MAN, CITIZEN KANE, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, THE MALTESE FALCON and CITY LIGHTS
|1950's SUNSET BLVD.|
Another topic gets placed in the books and another chapter is done. Stay tuned for next week when I (JER) take a whack at the piñata of cinema to see what gifts and treats come pouring out.
Until then, we will always SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!
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