Black and white films are a deep love of mine. There is nothing quite like settling down to watch a good old black and white, with freshly made popcorn and shutting the curtains in an attempt to home cinematise your front room. They are antiques, when you watch one you can feel yourself getting drawn back to the past, the days of romantic chivalry and smart little day suits, or perhaps down haunted streets and mysterious stately homes. The lingering shadows in black and white films become light and dark, creating scenes of horror, lust or everyday love. The beautiful classic actors in black and white films effortlessly become storytellers, asking audience members to imagine their world. The big explosions and ‘Inception’ like CGI of today give way to skillful talents of the performers, luring our attentions in the duration of the film. Charming and classy they ask for more of their audience, as we sit intimately watching their story unfold. The films reel of their own accord, not afraid to pause or stare, the shadowy hues define their faces they let us understand the complexities of their emotions that come from behind their dark eyes.
With that all said and done, I recently watched Rebecca directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, written by ‘And as for today’s’ favorite author of the moment, Daphne Du Maurier. The combination of Hitchcock and Du Maurier had excited me for a while now. I wanted to see how Hitchcock rafter my favorite book, he wasn’t on trial but if he didn’t do the book justice I would of got mad. Book vs film much? Not in this case. I don’t like to Vs them off each other, of course they are going to be different. The book, in brief, no spoiler alerts here is about a young nameless woman, who marries dashing Mr Maxim De Winter to escape being a paid companion to an old intolerable women. There are twists and turns with the book, Mrs De Winter fears she is in the shadow of Maxims previous wife Rebecca as she is slotted straight into married life, created and preserved from the first Mrs. De Winter, in their Manderley stately home.
Its dark, romantic in a desperate, deep longing, not the sloppy soppy type, there is suspicion and mystery, suspense and affection. The book sits perfectly in black and white, it is all about the emotions af feelings.
I love this film, I love this book, with the film I fell in love with the acting, bringing to life characters of the pages, Maxim De Winter played by the dashing Laurence Olivier and young Mrs De Winter played by porcelain beauty Jane Fontaine portray their characters with gusto and impeccable realistic, reliable and rare talent.
A Brief Encounter 1945, directed by Noel Coward, is another reason I love black and white. I have left my best until last.
The film is short so there is no excuse to watch it, my emotions went on that steam train all the way. It is such an intimate film where we share the longings of a housewife, she tells the story in first person, we are there, “Laura I am listening” I confess as she speaks her solace and her want of escape and resurrection with another man. She meets him, the other man at the train station, they stare, they stare some more, she contemplates and decides her fate. If this was in colour it wouldn’t feel the same, I don’t think I could read their eyes, their unspoken communications.
I recommend both these films, there are plenty more in black and white that are incredible because of their monochrome tones. Take Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang in 192, this film is outstanding, so haunting and interesting because it is so anything but Inception-like. Naturally there are films made in black and white that would be a flop in any age. But the ones I have seen hold a special place in my favorite film repertoire.
What is your favorite B&W classic? If you watch mine, I’ll watch yours.