Black and White: A new trend - Did you watch Fury Road ? | Daily News

Black and White: A new trend - Did you watch Fury Road ?

The mother of all road movies, George Miller’s visionary reboot of the Mad Max franchise 30 years after the original Mad Max, is one of the grittiest movies ever made. Watching Fury Road is such a visceral, even ethereal experience primarily because of its judicious use of colour in all the right ways. From the crimson desert traversed by the weird vehicles to the elaborately ornate clothes worn by the protagonists, Fury Road is a riot of colour. Can you think of seeing Fury Road any other way?

Well, apparently director Miller did. He decided to strip the colour away layer by layer and do a “Black and Chrome” version of Fury Road. Just when you begin to think that Fury Road would be reduced to a colourless grey void by taking the multitude of colours away, Miller has done exactly the opposite – the Black and Chrome version breathes new life to the movie, making it an almost entirely different one. Moody, atmospheric and even more surreal, this is the version to watch if you are new to the movie. (Check out the new blu-ray edition which includes the Black and Chrome version without delay).

A painstaking process

Regarding Fury Road’s coloring and de-coloring, Miller had this to say:

“One thing I’ve noticed is that the default position for everyone is to de-saturate post-apocalyptic movies. There’s only two ways to go, make them black-and-white , the best version of this movie is black-and-white, but people reserve that for art movies now. The other version is to really go all-out on the color. The usual teal and orange thing? That’s all the colors we had to work with. The desert’s orange and the sky is teal, and we either could de-saturate it, or crank it up, to differentiate the movie. There’s “something about black-and-white, the way it distills [Fury Road], makes it a little more abstract…losing some of the information of color makes it somehow more iconic.””

Not to be outdone, well-known director Peter Mangold has gone down the same road with his directorial effort Logan, the superhero flick where Hugh Jackman a.k.a. The Wolverine hangs up (withdraws?) his claws for good after 17 long years of saving the world. (This should make Logan the last X-men film, but you cannot make accurate predictions on movies).

Mangold did choose colour for shooting Logan, Wolverine’s swan song, but took some black and white stills for promotional use while filming was on. Little by little, Mangold realised that Logan could have been entirely shot in black and white.

Of course, by that time it was too late to do anything about it and the film was released in colour. Then he hit upon the brilliant idea of converting it to Black and White in post-production. The result is the absolutely stunning Logan Noir, which you can check out in 2160p 4K on the Ultra HD blu-ray and 1080p high definition on the normal blu ray. There was also a limited run of Logan Noir in select theatres in the US only. The Noir version is included on separate discs as a no-cost extra, so you have nothing to lose.

Noir has two meanings – Noir means black in French and since this is a black and white version, the name fits perfectly.

The other meaning or dictionary definition is in fact more apt for Logan Noir - a genre of crime film or fiction characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity. Logan is very much an anti-superhero movie since it has no heroics – just the painful struggle of two heroic men (Logan and Professor X played by Patrick Stewart) who know the best years of their lives are behind them. Logan is a revelation in Noir form, to the extent that some critics now say the film should not be seen in any other way.

But de-colourising a movie is no mean feat. Try turning the colour all the way down on your LCD TV and see what happens – the picture becomes an unwatchable muddy mess.

Thus it is simply not a matter of taking the colour(s) away. It is a science as well as an art. Colours have to be graded according to what shades they should represent in black and white terms. Contrast, brightness and black levels all have to adjusted for the monochrome version, lest some scenes appear to be washed out. It is a painstaking process that can take days, if not weeks, even with the best computing and editing equipment. Needless to say, not every movie works well in glorious black and white and these should be left untouched in the colour department.

The monochrome route 

This trend of re-grading color movies into black-and-white first started with Frank Darabont, who claimed that he always wanted to shoot his Stephen King adaptation ‘The Mist’ in atmospheric black & white but the studio forced him to use color for commercial reasons. The DVD release of Darabont’s The Mist included a two-disc special edition with an exclusive black-and-white cut of the film.

“That [it doesn’t look real], to me, is what makes black-and-white so very cool. No, it doesn’t look real. Film itself [is a] heightened recreation of reality. To me, black-and-white takes that one step further. It gives you a view of the world that doesn’t really exist in reality and the only place you can see that representation of the world is in a black-and-white movie,” says Darabont.

Even King admitted that watching The Mist, which is a horror film, in Black and White was an exciting experience. You can catch the Black and White version of The Mist on the collector’s edition blu-ray released in 2008.

There is a film which actually begins in colour and ends in black white - Sympathy for Lady Vengeance by Park Chan Wook. This version is appropriately called the “Fade to Black and White” version. Bong Joon Ho also took the monochrome route for his acclaimed movie “Mother” which was initially released in colour.

These movies are somewhat difficult to find on the Web, though.

There are some surprising entries too in the monochrome game. Raiders of the Lost Ark in Black and White, anyone? The monochrome version of the Steven Spielberg classic is not available commercially, but it was uploaded to the Net by fellow director Steven Soderbergh through his blog Extension 765. He also changed much of the music to match the black and white mood. Let’s hope that this one too gets a blu-ray or DVD release.

Of course, a very few movies are still originally made in black and white. The Oscars’ best picture winner The Artist (2011) is the most recent movie that comes to mind (this movie was also silent) while monochrome Schindler’s List won the same award in 1993. Ed Wood, Pleasantville, Mutual Appreciation, Control, In Search of a Midnight Kiss, the White Ribbon and Tabu are some of the well known Black and White movies made during the last 20 years. If colour can be turned into black and white, why not do the opposite ? Indeed, colorization is a thing. Black and white films can be turned into colour by computer, but there are only a few examples for well-made colourised movies.

The best example is Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The colourised version of one of the most uplifting movies ever made is available on Paramount’s Platinum Anniversary Edition blu-ray.

Hundreds of films have now been colourised and most are available on DVD or blu ray. Both versions of the film are always offered, so you will be able to elect what version you want to watch.

Colourisation is not so bad as it is made out to be. Technology gives us the ability turn black and white to colour and vice versa, but the final verdict still lies with the viewer. 

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