Monochrome marvels: The best modern black-and-white movies
Robert Eggers’s followup to The Witch, The Lighthouse, “a fantasy horror story set in the world of old seafaring myths”, stars Robert Pattinson (Damsel) & Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) and came out last month.
Editor Louise Ford (Thoroughbreds) revealed during an interview with Mandy News: “It’s set in 1890, and we’re shooting on 35mm black and white stock, virtually unheard of nowadays. Most black and white movies are shot in color, and then converted to black and white in post. The dailies look beautiful; it’s very exciting.”
Considering Eggers’s New England folk story The Witch was already a visually arresting movie, we were delighted by how his horror vision looked, steeped in the inky obscurity of 35mm black and white.
In the past ten years or so, black and white film has been utilized for numerous modern movies to delve into a variety of stories that prove monochrome still packs a punch. Here’s our ranking of the best modern black and white movies from the past fifteen years to get you excited for Eggers’s horror joint.
10. Keyhole (2011)
Starring Jason Patric (The Lost Boys), Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet), and Udo Kier (Melancholia), Guy Maddin’s mysterious drama is enchanting if a little overwrought with melodrama bursting between film noir elements. Following an emotional odyssey involving family, gang warfare, and the hidden secrets of a home, Keyhole explores the secret obscurities of the otherwise familiar.
9. Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
Providing a dazzling play on modern romcoms and Shakespeare’s influence upon them, Joss Whedon’s black and white retelling of the classic play leans heavily on the black and white film stock to evoke a sensation that fraught love stories are as old as the day is long.
8. Darling (2015)
Presenting a seemingly timeless story in which a young woman is driven slowly insane by the apparently haunted house she’s forced to inhabit, Mickey Keating’s Darling presents a bold and desolate horror packed full of startling performances from Lauren Ashley Carter (Imitation Girl) & Sean Young (Blade Runner).
7. Computer Chess (2013)
Set over the course of a weekend computer chess tournament during the early days of modern technology, Andrew Bujalski’s nostalgic vision of gaming, technology, and the human spirit is an eccentric marvel packed full of clunky old equipment and even clunkier personalities.
6. Control (2007)
As much a musical biopic as it is a taut exploration of a life cut short (and the people left behind), Anton Corbijn’s movie about Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis (Sam Riley) is bleak but beautiful, benefitting from the monochrome palette in its delivery of a distant hero.
5. Blue Jay (2016)
Alex Lehmann’s romantic drama sees Mark Duplass (Creep) & Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story) as a pair of high school sweethearts who resurrect old feelings over one disastrous drunken evening. In black and white, the story’s desperate and skewed sense of nostalgia is framed like a faded newsprint when examining two people who represent little more than an inky smudge of the past to one another.
4. The Eyes of My Mother (2016)
Beguiling and patient, Nicolas Pesce’s slow-paced horror is a grisly gothic tale full of bold, memorable imagery and haunting atmospherics regarding the lingering taint of childhood trauma and a terrible darkness left to unfurl.
3. In Search of a Midnight Kiss (2007)
Sweet, funny, and chaotic, Alex Holdridge’s New Years Eve comedy is full of romanticism for a bygone era and for the search of impossibly perfect moments. Set in Los Angeles, In Search of a Midnight Kiss sees Scoot McNairy (Monsters), Sara Simmonds (Sexless), and Brian McGuire (Sick of it All) chasing their dreams across the city and desperately discovering Hollywood romance in even the most mundane of locations and images.
2. Frances Ha (2012)
Featuring an all-star indie cast including Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Mickey Sumner (American Made), and Adam Driver (Paterson), Noah Baumbach’s whimsical comedy about a young woman failing to figure out her life is elegantly lo-fi, using a striking black and white lens to highlight a person hesitating to fill in her own blanks.
1. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
With a magnificently galumphing inkinesss to every shot, Ana Lily Amirpour’s Iranian vampire Western is gothic but modern and dripping with coolness.