There seems to be a vogue for shooting (or at least releasing) a film in black and white, whether it makes any sense contextually or not: Baumbach’s Frances Ha and Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing each appear to consist of desaturated images for no real reason whatsoever, which strikes me as incredibly wrongheaded. Why are these films in black and white? What purpose does it serve?
In the clip below, from The Dick Cavett Show, Peter Bogdanovich explains why he decided not to shoot The Last Picture Show in color: it more or less boils down to the fact that he felt color would ruin the mood he was looking for in his setting. Mel Brooks–also a guest on that same episode–comments that black and white is nothing more than a silly “arty” gimmick unless it’s motivated by something within the story, setting, etc. The same could be said of any technique which is only technique. Thinking something “looks cool” isn’t enough.
Here, à propos of nothing, beyond my own historical interest, is William Friedkin winning an Oscar for Directing (for The French Connection) in 1972, beating out both Peter Bogdanovich and Stanley Kubrick. Say what you will about whether the award went to the right man–Friedkin’s work on The French Connection is easily deserving of the honor. It takes a giant set of balls to stage a dangerous chase scene in the middle of New York City without the necessary permits.
I was lucky enough to hear Friedkin speak recently at a screening of Sorcerer in San Jose; he told a number of wildly amusing stories. One of them involved a New York City functionary who agreed to look the other way with respect to the famous chase scene in The French Connection–in exchange for $40,000, with which he retired to Jamaica.
Friedkin is an incredibly fascinating and woefully under-appreciated filmmaker, in my humble estimation.
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