Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Black and white in colour

Why is it that I find black and white films almost always better looking than colour films? I think it has something to do with the fact that the world is in colour, so when you photograph it in black and white it's unavoidable that you add a certain stylishness. Even if you are a terrible cinematographer (or a regular photographer), if you do it in black and white it automatically becomes artful and different, whereas if you shoot on colour stock, it doesn't look special in any way unless you really work hard and artistically. It's therefore more difficult to make something striking in colour. But of course by no means impossible. There are many colour films which have magnificent cinematography (I will not even try and list them all), but it doesn't come naturally.

And I'm not saying that all black and white films are equally goodlooking. Films shot by, say, John Alton or Stanley Cortez, or David Lean's films, are of course superior to the works of hacks. But still.

Here's an example from He Walked By Night (1948), with John Alton as cinematographer. Notice the striking resemblance to The Third Man made the year after.

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