With the prevalence of 3D and IMAX and every other visual innovation taking place in cinema right now, it’s easy to understand why black and white might not seem appealing to the average filmgoer. Where 3D and IMAX are exciting and loud, black and white is tempered and quiet, a stylistic choice that intuits a film more interested in the complex interiority of characters than the grand spectacle of a Hollywood blockbuster. Or so it may seem. One look at the black and chrome edition of “Mad Max: Fury Road” should all but shatter the current conception of black and white as a strictly avant-garde visual flair, and remind us that, if anything, it’s an underused form.
To show us all just how powerful monochromatic cinematography can be, Now You See It has put together a new video essay that expounds upon all the glories of film noir and the sleek and contrasty black and white it’s known for. The 4-minute video, “Film Noir: The Case For Black And White,” argues that black and white has become unfairly overlooked as a tool (though it doesn’t mention post-converted movies like ‘Mad Max’). Not only does the medium have the capability to focus shots and scenes, but with the right lighting a whole new world of interiority can be opened up, and a duality of character explored in a completely visual manner.
More basically, the video essay says, the reason black and white has fallen out of favor is simply the poor, ineffectual use of it. Which, when most movies that are presented in black and white these days are simply converted in post, it’s easy to imagine that they aren’t filmed with monochrome in mind. Still, the video notes, film noir endures in its influence (like the simple and contrast-heavy color cinematography of “Breaking Bad”).
So, whether or not you’re a fan of classic film noir, it’s a fascinating look at a sorely underused form. Check out the video above and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below.