In case you missed it, this year I’ve found myself more and more intrigued by taking a look at what happens when the colour is stripped away from a few modern films and we consider them in black and white.
My theory was that works moviegoers are familiar with would take on a different vibe when rendered in black and white. Sometimes the imagery would become more potent…sometimes lose its impact…but always become something rather different from what we’ve become accustomed to.
The drama and comedy I’ve already looked at brought about predictable results…
…but what happens when we turn our attention to animation?
A medium aimed so squarely at young audiences that bright colours are a must, and yet also a medium that was built on stories that predate moving colour imagery.
So what happens if we take a monochrome look at, say, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. The primed-for-remake modern classic. The first animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture. Might taking away its colour palette diminish the results, or might it perhaps teeter it towards the Jean Cocteau classic?
Right off the top, we’re pinned back in our seats with this grayscale image that begins the film. Squint just a bit, and this could be a black and white photograph. Images like this are what works best with the grayscale treatment. More on that in a bit.
Seems like a woodcut print in an old story book. Amazing how well it pops considering how bright the colour palette is in this stained glass sequence.
Our heroine. Is it just me, or does she seem slight Audrey Hepburn-esque here?
What loses in these experiments is seldom what you think. In BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, it’s Gaston. His burnt red tunic and rusty gloves don’t pop the same way as shades of grey. Seldom does he catch our eye the way he does in colour.
Thankfully, his character design almost makes up for it.
Sorta feels like a Dali image, doesn’t it? Or something by Kubrick.
Another moment that loses a bit of its impact. In colour, this moment fuses together Scarlett O’Hara with Maria from THE SOUND OF MUSIC.
Without the pink skies behind her though, this declaration by Belle holds a little less romance.
“Where are you taking us, Maurice?” Where indeed!
Is it me, or would this make a great poster for THE GREY?
That beam of light that follows Belle in to Beast’s castle…
“Step into the light…”
Our first proper look at our host. His design seems specifically crafted to allow light to gently spill from the locks in his mane. Our first glimpse is equally arresting and beautiful in black and white. While we miss the blue in those eyes, there’s no doubting the soul that the artists infused there.
Note how that rose glows even though we don’t can’t see its pink hue?
Again – look quickly and this could be a photograph…
That singular source of light again. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST seems to relish in the way one lively spirit can brighten up the darkest corners.
I think I have a tie this pattern…
More than any other moment, this image seems to evoke the spirit of the Cocteau version. That perfectly replicated expression in the broken mirror would make Josette Day proud. That can’t be an accident.
Again – dark shades of grey, bright rose. Where does your eye immediately go?
That window frame. All of that winter. A snowball fight off in the distance.
When you strip away the colour from this little throwaway moment in “Something There”, I can’t help but be reminded of the boyhood scene in CITIZEN KANE.
Is this a specific reference, or a happy accident?
Yellow doesn’t render well in black and white – so this one took some tweaking. Also, how rough does that digital chandelier look in comparison to everything else in this series of images?
The camera move in this sequence still dazzles more than any single image…but it’s wild to see that it’s the old-school techniques that hold up under scrutiny better than the breakthrough cinematic innovation.
That goes for black and white or colour.
Look quickly and this looks like a charcoal drawing.
Check out the way the light is falling on this caretaker. This artist deserves a damned raise for such care with a throwaway character.
Note to self: Rewatch FRANKENSTEIN soon.
When you strip away colour, you can pay attention to other artistic elements…like use of line. The perspective in this moment is perfect; strong, violent, precise.
We might have spent most of the film shaking our heads at Gaston, but in this one pose, we are reminded of just how powerful and deadly he can be.
…and then one gargoyle opens its eyes, turns, and snarls.
Perhaps the most striking image of this entire experiment.
Those eyes again. Still lacking in blue, still dripping with soul. The face finds the light the same way it did when it was buried under a shaggy mane. And even without a drop of colour, we sense the soul of the character…and “happily ever after” taking hold.