Monday, 6 August 2012

Black & White Cinema

Ever since colour was introduced to cinema, it has always since then been seen as sentimental past of cinema history. In today’s world black and white more than often is seen as art house cinema also known as Art Film. Most often people connect black and white to film noir films however if you want to go deeper into film noir with black and white films we would have to look at German Expressionist cinematography. So black and white isn’t just a label of one category of film genre and style but of many, however today black and white is only seen as pretentiousness of a film maker. It seems now if I use black and white the public tend to think right away that I’m being an artistic pretentious film maker. But I cannot blame them because there are film makers out there that just use black and white because they feel it would add more character to the film. Somehow thinking this would make the film feel more vintage or unique. Its film makers like these that killed black and white cinema using it for the wrong reasons. Black and white is meant to be used for the right reasons. If we look at other black and white films we can see how black and white should really be used.

Manhattan Opening Montage Shots 
Black and white to me is a feeling of nostalgia of the present and personally I see black and white as a perfect canvas of glamour. If we look at Woody Allen’s Manhattan the opening shot of the film is a black and white panoramic shot of New York City with a sentimental music. Watching Manhattan there is so much glamour in every shot and the city being so huge; watching all those people moving around, the street lights, traffic lights and building makes the city look alive. There was so much beauty in every shot that was used in the montage of Manhattan. It was as if every shot of the city was a framed picture in a portrait gallery. After series of shots inside Manhattan the glamour is shown with the wide shots of New York. At first we were subjected to within the city but now we are encountered by beautiful tall buildings both known day and night. At the end of the montage of New York City Woody ends this opening scene with New York City shooting fireworks. The buildings lights almost look like stars and when the fireworks go off they look like exploding stars that fade and fall into New York.

Christopher Nolan's The Following 
Have a look at Christopher Nolan’s The Following, this neo noir film is based on a wannabe writer who suffers from writers block and decides to follow strangers on the streets of London. Not being able to keep his distance his is drawn into the criminal underworld. Even though this film has the typical film noir elements of a low key black and white visual style and the feeling of crime drama genre it has very modern outlook. The themes, style and cinematography is a much updated version of film noir. If we even translate the name from French to English Film noir means “black film” when neo noir means “New black”.

Edward Norton slow motion scene
If we have a look at a more modern film, American History X tells the story of a gruesome drama of two brothers whose fire fighter father dies on duty by been shot at by a local black drug dealer. The oldest brother Derek joins the neo Nazi movement but after been sentenced to prison for manslaughter of two black gang members. The oldest brother now turns his attention to his brother preventing him going down the same path. The black and white used in this film was used as a flash back sequence. The flash back tells the story of the protagonist and his disturbing past as skinhead. I feel that there as more to the black and white then just a flash back sequence. The black and white feature to me is also representing the black and white footage used during the Third Reich days. Almost as if the time has changed but technology of camera stayed in the same. We always saw the Nazism and occultism in black and white. So the scene of the ruthless killing of one of the gang members Edward Norton walking towards the camera in slow motion with the Swastika tattooed on his chest, he really did look like SS soldier back Nazi Germany marching in the Nuremberg Rally. 

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