Where Did All The Black & White Films Go?
Remember those things? Stopped around 1960, always had Sid James in them, filled up the TV schedules all day, now gone. It was only when I searched for a black and white film on the EPG that I realised they had vanished completely, but the French film ‘The Artist’ reminded me of what we had lost by dismissing them.
My partner refuses to watch black and white; don’t get me started. But it’s clear that an entire generation has grown up who will simply shut down if a monochrome film appears, in the same way that audiences for talkies stopped watched silents. Again, ‘The Artist’ showed why a silent film can sometimes work as well.
But I’ve found that some B&W films leave haunting images in your dreams, far more than their colour equivalents. And Hollywood noirs existed for their wonderfully dramatic shadows. Top Twenty Best Black and White Film lists often include Psycho, Top Hat, Sunset Boulevard, Touch Of Evil, The Seventh Seal, Metropolis, Portrait of Jennie, The Third Man and Some Like It Hot, but not my own favourite.
As a consequence I’ve rejoined the NFT to see some of these again on a big screen with the shared experience of being in a (usually) full auditorium. Here’s my personal best monochrome movie, Jack Clayton’s astonishingly disturbing ‘The Innocents’, with photography by Dougie Slocombe (I still have trouble watching the scene with the goodnight kiss).
‘The Innocents’ remains the polar opposite of a Hollywood Thud & Blunder film like ‘Transformers’, because real emotions are ignited by silence and space, thoughtful calm and distance, the way you would actually experience the appearance of a ghost.