CineMathematics or CinemaThematics. Your choice

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Color Me Beautiful

This is a contribution to the Deeply Superficial Blog-A-Thon over at South Dakota Dark. If you have little to no interest in anything deep concerning your media, head over there. It's so much fun to be shallow!

It's one of the eternal questions for any good movie watcher. Color or black and white? Orson Welles once said that black and white is an actor's best friend, and after thinking about it for a while, I agreed. An actor in a black and white movie just looks better than an actor in a color movie. Look at Ingrid Bergman:

Can you even make a comparison there? Faces are what Hollywood was built on. In Norma Desmond's day, they didn't need dialogue. They had faces! Can you name me one actor who looks better in color than black and white? (Well, besides Paul Newman. Those blue eyes are dreamy...) Where are the indelible faces of the color era? No, color has the landscapes. Just think of John Wayne in Stagecoach and The Searchers. Take a look at these examples:

Both of these scenes show the introduction of John Wayne's character, and he dominates both scenes. However, you can't help but wonder at the Ringo Kid's face in Stagecoach. And The Searchers? His face isn't nearly as striking. But that doesn't mean color has no advantages.

Color allows for the beauty of the world around us. It can be used to surreal effect as in this scene from Vertigo:

It's hauntingly beautiful. Color can also lend atmosphere to a period piece, such as in Once Upon a Time in America:

It's as if we're watching an old photograph tell its story. And then of course there's this:

That you just can't get from a black and white film.

So what say you? Color or Black and White? Faces or everything around them? What's your preference?

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