Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Uncategorized Which film style is better: black & white or color?

Which film style is better: black & white or color?

There’s an old saying, “Less is more”, but does that pertain to film?  More specifically, does that pertain to black & white versus color?  Well, let’s take a look at some films which were shot in black & white, some which were shot in color, & some which were shot in both.

Dick Tracy (1990) – This comic book turned movie is much different than other comic books that have been brought to the big screen, namely Batman.  While Batman wears black & is a very dark character, Dick Tracy is the complete opposite.  As a matter of fact, Dick Tracy has to be one of, if not, the most colorful film I have ever seen.  Each color is bright, which really makes each color stand out.  For example, Dick Tracy’s trench coat is not black or white like in most film noirs, but a bright yellow, which really makes him, stand out.  It literally seems like a comic brought to the big screen, as this movie is just as colorful as the comic book. 

Pleasantville (1998) – This film is interesting as it starts out in color, enters the fictional world of black & white, then slowly brings elements of color into that world.  It is interesting as this movie is part black & white/part color.  I think they used color in a unique way in this film.  Instead of over saturating it like they did in Dick Tracy, they used it here to highlight certain elements of the film.  Also, when it only highlights certain elements of the film, it makes that particular element stand out from the rest.  In other words, it makes that particular element seem more important than the rest.  In this case, they “introduced” color into a black & white world.   

Schindler’s List (1993) – The old saying, “Less is more” never rang more true than in this film.  As Pleasantville was part black & white/part color, this film is even less as there is only one element throughout the entire film, which is in color, a candle.  That’s right, for a three hour movie, which is in black & white, the only time the audience, sees color is during a scene where we see the candle.  I found it to be uniquely interesting that they chose to have the candle be in color as opposed to just making the film completely black & white.  It’s as if the candle represented something, like hope, in an otherwise cruel & prejudiced society. 

Psycho (1960/1998) – When Alfred Hitchcock was making Psycho, he chose to shoot it in black & white instead of color in order to cut down on the expenses.  As a result, he either knowingly or unknowingly created one of, if not, the greatest suspense film of all time & is considered by many to be his finest work.  Thirty-eight years later, Gus Van Sant decided to remake the film, shot-for-shot in color.  While Hitchcock earned critical acclaim from Psycho, Gus Van Sant earned a razzie award for worst remake.  I often wonder, what in the hell was Gus Van Sant thinking when he decided to remake a Hitchcock classic? 

If I had to choose between black & white or color, I would pick black & white.  There are two reasons why I would choose black & white over color.  First, I believe that it adds to the suspense of the film.  For example, one of the reasons why Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho worked so well was because during the shower scene, all you could see was a dark silhouette.  If it had been in color, it wouldn’t have been as suspenseful.  The other reason why I like black & white over color is because when it’s in black & white, you are more focused on the plot & the dialogue as there are no colors to distract you.  Another instance where black & white worked well was in the classic television show The Twilight Zone.  One reason why the movie & the remakes were not as successful is because they were shot in color, which, in my opinion, killed the mystique.      

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