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Saturday, 05 May 2018


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Too bad you don't live in LA. We have American Cinematique http://www.americancinematheque.com/ and the art Deco Society of LA http://adsla.org/info/ plus other preservationist groups regularly show these old B/W movies, usually with a lecture relating to the movie makers, styles of the era or movie industry history.

There's a book with photos by German photographer Waltraut Pathenheimer. She documents the film productions of German Democratic Republic's DEFA film company. This site shows some of the photos: https://prominentimostblog.com/2017/02/21/waltraut-pathenheimer-sie-war-die-erste-filmfotografin-der-defa/ and you should be able to find it on amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Pathenheimer-Filmfotografin-zweisprachige-Ausgabe-englisch/dp/3861539284

What! And nobody mentioned Woody Allen's 1991 classic, "Shadows and Fog"?

Roger Hicks and Christopher Nisperos published a book (Hollywood Portraits) back in 2000 that analyzed and 'reverse-engineered' the lighting of dozens of classic black and white publicity stills. It included lighting diagrams and explained how you could reproduce the same effects yourself.
I probably tried two of the setups before my unwilling models (my adolescent children) got tired of my fumbling efforts and bailed.

Wooo.... I remember reading this column! Have we been together that long????

I’m a little late to the party but ...
Harvey, starring one of my favorite actors James Stewart, Josephine Hull as an absolutely wonderful Veta, and of course Harvey who is admittedly a little camera shy.
Full of wonderful quotes such as-
“Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.”

L'Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year At Marienbad) contains the most mesmerizing intro sequence of any film I've seen. Dunno if I'd rate the film as a whole in the Top 10 of any list, but that intro alone brings it close.

To clarify re: titles originale, you list Breathless with it's American title, it was released as À Bout de Souffle.

IIRC, Roger Deakins shot The Man Who Wasn't There on color film stock but converted to monochrome in post. The intention was always monochrome release. I was so filled with joy when he won the Oscar for his work on Blade Runner 2049.

I believe I probably was one of the people recommending In Cold Blood on the original post. The scene at the end while Robert Blake is describing how he and his partner weren't so extremely bad individually, but their combination got out of their control, as the shadows of rain on a window pour down his face is on the shortlist of my favorite shots in film.

I got to see the multi-Oscar winning Mad Max Fury Road Shiny and Chrome edition (DP is the great John Seale) in arguably America's best theater, the Cinerama in Seattle. George Miller wanted to film and release it in black and white but the studio wouldn't let him. He released it on Blu Ray and theatrically, and no, it wasn't a simple de-saturation but a true re-grading/balancing. It's an amazing film. Even in color ;-)

The list you compiled gives me lots of ideas to add to my Netflix list.


Alexander Paynes Nebraska would fit in with this group

I cannot recommend the Hungarian film 'The Round Up' highly enough. It is a series of beautiful compositions and tones - as well as being a clever story.

From 2013, Nebraska, with two of my favourites, Phedon Papamichael (DOP) and Bruce Dern.

If that's 1958's Steve McQueen THE BLOB, that was shot in Eastmancolor~!

I'm sorry I did not send this earlier. Great Black and White movie. John Ford with Henry Fonda.

The Fugitive

David Applegate

An obvious omission is “The Misfits,” with Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift, and directed by John Huston. But it is a difficult movie to watch as Monroe is obviously holding on by a thread, and knowing Gable dies 12 days after filming completes. And Clift too seems on his sleeves.

Still, even though it is a bit dated, it is a great, sad movie.

Mike forgot the link for The Fugitive.


„Louis Malle's Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows) “ plus music by Mles David!

[Fixed! --Mike]

Oh come one.... you forgot

The Book of Eli

Although there is subtle amount of colors, but it feels like a B&W movie. I've probably watched it a half a dozen times. The photography - cinematography and lighting is amazing.


This from 2006? Doesn't bode well for the colour photograph competition... ;-)

One of the movies "Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief" I oddly saw it in Pizza Express in Hong Kong Times Square. Find it very good but very odd as just something on the wall whilst I am eating pizza.

On a recent trip to New York, we were stranded for a day by bad weather. We looked for something to do around Laguardia and discovered the Museum of the Moving Image. In addition to a wonderful collection of Jim Henson artifacts, they have a great disply of old movie cameras and black and white still images. As you mention in your article, the studios were masters of black and white photography and the studio prints are just wonderful. This museum is well worth a visit if you have a long wait at the airport. It's just a short Uber aeay.

Two points:

1) I would humbly submit 1947's Out of the Past and 1956's Invasion of the Body Snatchers as honorable mentions.

2) The Blob was filmed in color.

Great list. Thank you.

I'd like to add another of Wim Wenders' films, "Alice in the Cities" -- not because it is visually stunning like "Wings of Desire" but because it is a great movie that would be less great if it were in color. Pretty basic criterion that leaves a lot of room for unsubstantiated opinion, which is why I like it.

Wenders' films are available on Filmstruck, including a short fascinating documentary on the restoration process for his films.

I second the suggestion about Filmstruck. And would add Hiroshi Teshigahara's "Woman in the Dunes" and King Vidor's "The Crowd" to the list.

Red River

I think at least 10 of Bergman's films belong there, specially The Seven Seal, and all of the Tarkovski BW films, but specially Andrei Rublev, an unforgettable masterpiece.

A bit surprised La Dolce Vita came so relatively low on that list.

See if you can find a secondhand copy of
Grand Illusions by Richard Lawton. Published in 1973 by Octopus books. It's pretty much cover to cover stills and publicity shots from the golden age of Hollywood. I've had my copy for over 40 years and it's still a delight every time I take it off the shelf.

Do not forget Ivan's childhood from Tarkovsky, with probably the most beautiful kissing movie scene ever.

Beautiful photograph of Ingrid Bergman. She liked photographers, even dated a famous one for a while.

Good list. A few more:

Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc. Luminous. One of the first to be shot on panchromatic stock.

Everything shot by Sven Nykvist.

Bela Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies and Turin Horse. Very Koudelka-ish in tonality.

A couple more film noir: Force of Evil, Shock Corridor

Ray's The Music Room. Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev. Von Trier's Zentropa. Varda's Cléo from 5 to 7.

Antonioni's L'Avventura, which should be in top 3.

Roger Deakins is a genius.
'There is no more to be said'

And a virtual prize to the person who recognises which last line of which poem, by which author, I am quoting.

I'm only sad that I wasn't reading you back in 2006---I would have voted and added some. But it's a good list for sure. Surprised La Belle et La Bete was not on the original list, but glad you've mentioned it. I would place Orphee higher, as well as some others, and there should be more Japanese films. Shocked there's no early Lean here, especially Great Expectations. I'll have to look at the list more carefully, but quickly looking I think I have seen most of them. Here's where it would be nice on your blog to have a separate readers' picks section, or sections, for good suggestions. Some of the excellent commentary here gets lost over time, sadly (as in: I never saw this before!)

To add to the discussion of Ida, Ryszard Lenczewski discusses his use of still photographs to create the look of the film and to scout scenes: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/ryszard-lenczewski-cinematography-from-still-to-movie

Steven Soderbergh converted "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to B&W and added Soderbergh-y music to it a few years ago. It's very interesting to watch because you know the movie so well, and it shows how well Spielberg and his DP use lighting and staging: http://extension765.com/soderblogh/18-raiders

Timely article! I watched "Casablanca" the other day, once again, and it left me wanting more. I was hoping for a list of worthy movies for a follow up. I hoped, and here it is! Thanks!

I agree with Red River, The 7th Seal deserves a spot on the list. Looking back there are quite a number of movies that were great for a variety of reasons. Talent and vision have been around for a long time.

No Renoir? No Bresson? No Dreyer? No Mizoguchi?

What! Are you going to repeat yourself every twelve years? How about something original. :)

Glad to see Grapes of Wrath on the list. I starting watching that on TV during a boring Sunday afternoon's channel hopping and ended up completely transfixed.

Some years ago I knew someone who worked for the British Film Institute, and that year they did a Film Noir calendar; I framed and hung around half of the B&W stills they'd used in the calendar, they were so good.

I suppose that "Best B&W Movies" refers to exceptional black and white imagery quality first, if only it.
Regarding Bruce Alan Greene's note, despite To Kill a Mockingbird be found only in restored copies, I agree it's one of the most beautiful photographed B&W films, ever.
So is Tabu, the fateful Murnau's last film.

I am surprised that no one has mentioned John Frankenheimer's "The Train" from 1964. Great B&W footage of WWII era stream trains in France.

Give a chance to this documenary fim by Dusan Hanak https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0171587/ potraits of old people living in Slovakia based on photographs by Martin Martincek.

Couple [well, quite some] to add to that list:
Nazarín [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aRIFpHcReY]
The executioner [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Executioner_(1963_film) ]
Plácido [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pl%C3%A1cido_(film) ]
Welcome, Mr. Marshall [ https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bienvenido,_Mister_Marshallhttps://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bienvenido,_Mister_Marshall">https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bienvenido,_Mister_Marshall">https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bienvenido,_Mister_Marshallhttps://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bienvenido,_Mister_Marshall ]
The shortfilm within "Talk to her", called "The Shrinking lover", by Almodovar. All of the above [Berlanga, Buñuel] are a must to understand how normal Almodovar is for spaniards.

By the way:
One of the best photographed and light choreographed scenes I remember [for its delicacy] is the hospital body cleansing scene at Talk to her. Worth watching.

Just catching up on my reading and your list of B&W films (movies) - was flabergasted that "The Cranes are Flying" didn't even get a single vote. Outstanding WWI silent movie - deserves to be up there with the best. Also no Russian films, few German or British, but that reflects your main audience I suspect.

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