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Why Are We Making Black And White Movies in 2023?

In a grayscale universe, every frame is a masterpiece.

Movies are the purest depiction of our dreams. They have the power to present surreal images that are not possible in reality, allowing us to delve into our psyches and reveal our truer, deeper selves. The movies have evolved along with technology. Almost everything that is currently playing in theaters shows this progress, with their use of CGI to create challenging images, portable cameras and equipment that allow for shooting on real-life locations, and even sound that allows spectators to hear as well as see the stories being told. While these advances should be celebrated for allowing filmmakers to express themselves more than ever before, we have also lost some elements of cinematic expression as a result of major studios' rapid adoption of new technologies, making some methods appear unfairly inferior to most audiences.

Why Are We Making Black And White Movies in 2023? A still from the French Dispatch 2023.

The use of black-and-white images is one of these lost elements. Although there has been a recent increase in the number of black-and-white films in the independent film scene, there is still a widespread perception that black-and-white films are strange in comparison to the more natural choice of color used in art house films.

Black and white offerings imply that perhaps the wider audience is finally willing to see this for what it is: an aesthetic choice, another tool in the filmmaker's toolbox. In contrast to mid-century films shot on black-and-white film, most modern versions, such as Roma, are shot in color and then converted to black-and-white during post-production. The cost difference between making the film in color and black and white isn't significant, but it's not as simple as putting on an Instagram filter; filmmakers patiently modify the color grading to produce an array of grays in between the black and white, and to develop the image so it looks good on screen.

Through German expressionism to film noir, black and white films have challenged the boundaries of filmmaking, as RocketJump Film School explains in an extremely detailed analysis of the style. Technically, the aesthetic has altered how filmmakers experiment with texture, lighting, sets, and depth. But, more importantly, black and white changes a movie's theme by providing atmosphere, tone, and visual contrasts, as well as a dreamlike view of the world. It can make a film feel believable like period film and photographs while also feeling unreal because real life is in color.

The director screened a black-and-white version of his soon-to-be history-making film, Bong Joon-Ho's smash hit inequality thriller, Parasite, shortly before it won Best Picture at the 2020 Oscars. He explained why at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, where the cut premiered. "I think it may be vanity on my part, but when I think of the classics, they're all in black and white," he said, with some of his characteristic wry wit. So I reasoned that if I converted my films to black and white, they'd become classics."

Many of these films resemble Citizen Kane, Psycho, Casablanca, or Seven Samurai — timeless classics that we continue to watch decades later. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that pantheon?

However, why directors choose to make black-and-white films vary, and unlike many previous black-and-white films, it is not for financial reasons. Nowadays, it's always an aesthetic decision. Some see it as a decision to relive the past. Because we are still used to connecting black-and-white images with history, colorizing old photographs to make them appear "current" is both popular and controversial. The best version of this film is in black and white, but that is now reserved for art films.

I believe that while color allows you to brilliantly describe people, black and white allows you to feel people. I believe it is a combination of audiences becoming accustomed to black-and-white films, recent successes in black-and-white films, and filmmakers being given the option of telling their stories in a different way, as well as the fact that making a black-and-white film requires a very specific direction and vision. It's a daring direction choice. That makes for good cinema.

Consider the horror genre: Horror films can benefit greatly from black-and-white's surreal capabilities. Nothing beats an image drenched in inky blackness and someone emerging from the void. The black-and-white aesthetic matches the 4:3 aspect ratio, which makes the images look like old photos of sailors from the late 1800s. More importantly, the stark color contrast improves the film's primary emotions of paranoia and isolation.

The day scenes have a grim grayness that mirrors the two men's mundane existence, whereas the night scenes of solitary lamplight or the mysterious isolated beam of the lighthouse itself emphasize how isolated the men are from the rest of the world on their lonely rock of land. All in black-and-white, it's masterfully unsettling and helps draw the viewer into the mind of the main character.

The stark contrasts and reflective moods of black-and-white make it all the more powerful, giving the audience a greater sense of the tragedy they are seeing. It also serves as persuasive evidence of the ever-powerful effect black-and-white filmmaking can have on audiences, and why it should always be more accepted by audiences regardless of the time they live in.

Many people believe that black and white is colder or less emotional. I completely disagree. In black and white, I find intimacy. To me, it appears to be a drawing rather than a painting, reminiscent of an early David Hockney line drawing. A drawing that, to me, often has intimacy mixed with that urgency has something very immediate and quick and unfussy and unhindered about it. There is now more room for you to experience. Of course, the primary choice is related to the narrative, but there is something about black and white that simplifies an image. When you remove the color, the separation, and the color contrast, you are left with the essence of an image. It also serves as convincing evidence of the ever-powerful effect black-and-white filmmaking can have on audiences, and why it should always be more accepted by audiences regardless of the era they live in. black and white movies 2023 black and white movies 2023


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