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BA thesis about Contemporary BW cinema


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#1 Raffaele Jr Alicino

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Posted 16 April 2016 - 06:21 AM

Hi All,

my name is Raffaele, i'm a film student in Italy, i'm going to graduate and finish my BA. I focalised my interests about Cinematography, and i want to do my final project about Black And White cinema in the last 20 years.

I already watched a lot of film both in BW or Mixed and read some books, but i want to ask you if you have any ideas, film or book about this. Any help would be really appreciated.

My challenge is to find the time at which BW has become a choice of aesthetic rather than a productive need, like first Chris Nolan feature.

Thank you in advance.


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#2 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 16 April 2016 - 09:37 AM

I think you have to go back to the late 1960s to early 1970s to find the time when B&W became an aesthetic choice, if only because color photography had become the norm. Kind of like choosing to shoot film over digital capture today.

If you limit your search to 1996-2016, then I think some of films you'll find that were shot in B&W were made that way for purely economic reasons - 'Clerks', 'Pi', 'Following' and others were shot in B&W because it was the cheapest way to self-finance a feature shot on film at the time. Not because of aesthetics. Once 24p digital video became an accepted format for independent filmmakers, the popularity of 16mm B&W waned significantly.
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#3 Mark Dunn

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Posted 16 April 2016 - 10:10 AM

1996 is a very late start date. The last big picture shot in b/w for aesthetic reasons was probably "The Elephant Man", and it was the first for a decade or so.

As early as 1962 b/w was an unusual choice for a Hollywood epic -q.v. "The Longest Day".


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#4 Mark Dunn

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Posted 16 April 2016 - 10:31 AM

David Lynch said that the lab work was indifferent in quality because of the loss of expertise over the years.....in 1980.


Edited by Mark Dunn, 16 April 2016 - 10:31 AM.

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#5 Kenny N Suleimanagich

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Posted 16 April 2016 - 10:32 AM

“The Artist” was shot on 5219 and converted to black and white. That was pretty recent. They wanted to do it all on Plus-X, but another feature beat them to the remainder of the world’s stock. 

 

I think Satsuki is right, though. Up through the breakthrough of decent DV, a lot of these were small films that couldn’t afford to shoot color (but many, in their own right, remain beautiful examples of filmmaking craft). 

 

Some of my favorites from roughly the era you mention are “La Haine”, “Pi”, and the documentaries “Dark Days” and “Lets Get Lost"


Edited by Kenny N Suleimanagich, 16 April 2016 - 10:40 AM.

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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 April 2016 - 10:35 AM

I would start with the 1960's because that was the last decade there was a separate Oscar award for b&w cinematography (the last being Haskell Wexler for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe") and it was the decade that cinematographers and directors in American Cinematographer and other books and magazines started discussing the reasons why b&w was chosen over color -- "The Longest Day" is a good example.

 

By the end of the decade and the early 1970's, it was even more unusual to choose b&w, so it is worth reading the articles about Peter Bogdanovich using it for "The Last Picture Show" and "Paper Moon", and then Woody Allen using it for "Manhattan" and then Martin Scorsese using for "Raging Bull".  There was also Nestor Almendros using b&w for a couple of Truffaut movies.


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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 April 2016 - 10:38 AM

Another recent b&w movie was "Blancanieves" (2012).  Both it and "The Artist" were clearly using b&w to evoke early cinema though.  And of course there is "Ida" (2013).


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#8 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 16 April 2016 - 01:59 PM

Why has nobody mentioned 'Schindler's List' and 'The Man who Wasn't there', two exceptional "modern" B&W movies. I think Schindler was shot Plus X eh? I know 'The Man who wasn't there' was shot color and converted because the studio was scared of releasing a B&W movie and they wanted a backup plan.

I think the artist could have been a lot better if shot on real B&W stock, it looked very much like a color movie converted to B&W. It's a real shame some indy film got the last Plus-X stock. If 'The Artist' were my movie, I would have shot it 16mm reversal. :)
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 April 2016 - 02:14 PM

I just didn't mention those because I was talking either about very recent b&w films or pre-1980 b&w films. Obviously we've had the occasional b&w movie through the 1980's until the present.  For me, it wouldn't be interesting to start the paper with the 1990's and "Schindler's List" because that's not a turning point in b&w cinematography history, for me it would be the mid-1960's as the studios started making color the norm and b&w became an alternative choice.

 

Or one could start in the late 1970's when Scorsese and a number of other directors to emerge in the 1970's all made a choice to shoot in b&w, partly over concerns about color film longevity.  But I don't see a reason to start in the 1990's with a paper on b&w cinematography, it's neither fish nor fowl, neither recent/contemporary or a turning point in b&w, other than perhaps being the turning point when most b&w movies started shooting on color stock.


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#10 Raffaele Jr Alicino

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Posted 17 April 2016 - 04:02 AM

Thank you very much to all... you all'are right 20 years are few. I started my research reading Wheeler winston dixon "black & white cinema" which covers bw finema from 1890 to late '60, so i think i'll start 50 years ago but of coure i'll focus analyzing the las 25-20 years films. Do you know any issue of American Cinematrographers that covers this topic? Thank you again to all


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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 April 2016 - 10:50 AM

No specific American Cinematographer article about b&w in general, though there is an infamous editorial from around 1938(?) titled "What's all the Hullaballoo About Color?" that questions the need for color movies.  But there are plenty of comments by cinematographers over the decades about b&w, particularly for movies shot in b&w after it stopped being the common choice.


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#12 Raffaele Jr Alicino

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Posted 18 April 2016 - 04:45 AM

Thank you David Mullen, im trying to find "What's all the Hullaballoo About Color?" but with no result can you help me? what do you think about Wim Wenders late '70 movies there are some in black an white


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#13 Mark Dunn

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Posted 18 April 2016 - 05:47 AM

There are some ACs on archive.org from the 30s.


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#14 Kenny N Suleimanagich

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Posted 18 April 2016 - 07:27 AM

Wim Wenders is another great example and it'd be useful to look at some other European cinema, too.

David mentions the 1960s, this is also the ending of the B&W TV era, so many programs changed to color after that. Even documentaries.

Edited by Kenny N Suleimanagich, 18 April 2016 - 07:28 AM.

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#15 John E Clark

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Posted 18 April 2016 - 12:04 PM


I think the artist could have been a lot better if shot on real B&W stock, it looked very much like a color movie converted to B&W. It's a real shame some indy film got the last Plus-X stock. If 'The Artist' were my movie, I would have shot it 16mm reversal. :)

 

I was glad that "The Artist"(2011) got awards for breaking to 'conventions', B&W and Silent... but yeah... I wish they had do a bit better on the 'simulation' of B&W...


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#16 John E Clark

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Posted 18 April 2016 - 12:06 PM

Wim Wenders is another great example and it'd be useful to look at some other European cinema, too.

David mentions the 1960s, this is also the ending of the B&W TV era, so many programs changed to color after that. Even documentaries.

 

Never had a color TV in the era... so my recollection of "Star Trek" or other 50s/60s classics is in monochrome... when I see episodes in color... I'm think' 'wow so that's what color the set/prop/people's hair was'... etc.


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#17 Mark Dunn

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Posted 18 April 2016 - 12:19 PM

 

Never had a color TV in the era... so my recollection of "Star Trek" or other 50s/60s classics is in monochrome... when I see episodes in color... I'm think' 'wow so that's what color the set/prop/people's hair was'... etc.

ST was the first colour TV I ever saw, at a rich friend's house- it was "The Cloud Minders", about 1973, the episode with the gorgeous matte painting of the castle on the planet with the orange sky. So it stands out in the memory.


Edited by Mark Dunn, 18 April 2016 - 12:21 PM.

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#18 Doug Palmer

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Posted 18 April 2016 - 12:45 PM

 

I was glad that "The Artist"(2011) got awards for breaking to 'conventions', B&W and Silent... but yeah... I wish they had do a bit better on the 'simulation' of B&W...

Me too.  Trouble is I only saw it projected digitally,  2K I presume, and it looked terribly flat.  So I don't know how it was intended to look. The tones could have gone a bit wrong when converted from colour.  But a great film nevertheless.


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#19 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 18 April 2016 - 01:01 PM

You could add a quote in the thesis from Vittorio Storaro how he has no interest in shooting in black-and-white:

 

http://www.filmanddi...geToDigital.pdf


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#20 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 April 2016 - 05:51 PM

Thank you David Mullen, im trying to find "What's all the Hullaballoo About Color?" but with no result can you help me? what do you think about Wim Wenders late '70 movies there are some in black an white

 

 

Turns out the title of the editorial is "Why All the Hubbub Regarding Color?", printed in the August 1936 issue of "American Cinematographer". 


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