Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Black & White Gems

Certain major movements in the flow of life has kept me terribly engaged resulting in the neglect of this space. Not that I have stopped my aesthetic pursuits. I continue to swim in the pleasure mixed waters of music, movies and life but haven’t been able to gather that hour of peace in which a man sits down, armed with words to give some shape to his thoughts.

Finally, sipping on the Dreamy Dew, inside the yellow-lit comforts of my home, I’m trying to make a comeback. Its about some Black & White Classics, I managed to watch in the last month and a half. Some, thanks to the film society that I am a part of and some, because the DVD’s that I borrowed from a friend.

The Third Man (1949): A British film noir by Carol Reed, based on the excellent screenplay by Graham Greene. Greene later published a novella of the same name. Brilliant cinematography (for those times), mysteriously beautiful Alida Valli , strange but befitting score on zither by Anton Karas and a superb performance by Orson Welles appearing in the last 40 minutes of the movie are the high points of this classic. In fact, the entry of Welles in the movie is one of the finest I’ve seen.

The Battle of Algiers (1966): This classic Italian docu-drama by the master director, Gillo Pontecorvo is based on the events during the 1954-1962 Algerian War against the French rule. The gripping and disturbing real-life feel with a haunting score by Ennio Morricone and Pontecorvo himself kept me riveted to the TV screen. Anurag Kashyap has taken a few lessons from here for his Black Friday. So have Mira Nair, Steven Soderbergh and Oliver Stone.

The movie has a strong relevance today with Iraq facing a similar situation.

Roman Holiday (1953): Everything is beautiful about this all time great Romantic Comedy by William Wyler. No matter how many times you watch it. Lovely Audrey Hepburn and handsome Gregory Peck riding a Vespa on the streets of Rome. Charmed! (as Princess Ann would have put it)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940): Directed by John Ford, this adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic of the same name almost does justice to the epic tale of Joad family’s exodus to California from Oklahoma in search of greener pastures during The Great Depression. Great performances by Jane Darwell as Ma Joad and Henry Fonda as Tom Joad mark this American classic.

It’s known that the great Orson Welles used to say that true test of acting skill is in the Black & White medium as colours distract the audience to things other than the actor’s expressions. Using the same logic, one may argue that the converse can also be true. Because colour cinema is a distractive medium, it takes superior acting talent from an actor to keep the audience riveted to his/her performance. Another way of looking at the subject would be to say that it all depends on the actor and his role, irrespective of medium’s shade. Do let me know how you look at it.

ps: That is one of the many excellent shots from 'The Third Man'. The movie got the Academy Award for Cinematography in 1950.


Smiling Dolphin said...

great post Meraj. yes black and white speaks like colour never can. i did a post on that too in december. i once did a presentation to the creative folks in lowe using only b&w imagery and by the end of it many of them were in tears! roman holiday aaah, wish i could go on one, but further west ofcourse....will blog soon.

Naked Cricket said...

First take: here's another whiskey post. Second: why don't they take all those color films, and make them into B&W. Third: May be not. Fourth: Leave the B&W films, don't "Color me badd"

meraj said...

thanks Dolphin! would like to see that presentation if you still have it somewhere.

thats a wild idea...taking color off from the color ones. and yes, B&W should be left alone.


ilegirl said...

Fabulous! I have never seen 'The Third Man' but will have to seek it out.

While I do love color in nature, there is something to black and white film that contributes to the excitement, the fantastical nature of storytelling, and the suspension of disbelief that makes watching a great film so very satisfying. Lighting is also a secondary character in B&W, while it so frequently plays a lesser role in color films.

Smiling Dolphin said...

not much to send - just unusual photos of dead men i admire - Mahatma Gandhi and Ravi Gupta, and a moving film....plus some earth from Raj Ghat which every one got a bit of

meraj said...

while you are seeking 'The Third Man', also try picking up Fritz Lang's 1931 classic 'M'.

smiling one,
and there we go again...a high admiration for Gandhi is on this side too.

Bhaskar Khaund said...

Not to forget the non-Hollywood masters ...beat Rushomon for B&W poetry , or ...heck all of them !

Tanaya said...

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Vanita Kambli
Bates India Mumbai
Office: +91-22-66179106
Fax: +91-22-66179011
E-mail: vanita.kambli@batesasia.com

meraj said...

yeah Bhaskar, the B&W gems from Asian & European masters have a class of their own.

many thanks...forget Adsense,am already making some money without it :)

Smiling Dolphin said...

so may 10 is the big day! congrats, you must be so excited. I will be in nashville that weekend...but will pray for you guys. will get a dvd of mourning forest, thanks for the tip.

POOJA NAIR said...

Meraj, you do to words what a painter does with colours! The first para of this post is a masterpiece!

meraj said...


many thanks for that large-hearted appreciation. feels good!